Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Akin Gump does the double, Kirkland boosts funds and Sidley recruits crime veteran as US firms power lateral market

Revolving Doors: Akin Gump does the double, Kirkland boosts funds and Sidley recruits crime veteran as US firms power lateral market

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld led the way in the City lateral market last week after hiring two funds partners from O’Melveny & Myers’ City arm, while Kirkland & Ellis and Sidley Austin also made senior hires.

Daniel Quinn and Aleksander Bakic start their new roles at Akin Gump today (1 April), after the duo decamped from Allen & Overy’s prospective merger partner O’Melveny. Both focus on private equity transactions, and will work in the firm’s investment management practice and transactional platform in London. The Texas-bred Akin Gump, meanwhile, also announced the hire of Allen Shyu in Beijing, who joins from Stephenson Harwood.

Commented Sebastian Rice, managing partner of London and Hong Kong for Akin Gump: ‘We hired them because they fit so well with what we do, it’s the age old cliché of building on our existing strengths at the firm.’

He added: ‘It was an opportunity that arose, they were both looking for a platform they felt they didn’t have at O’Melveny. If there are future options in this area that will strengthen then we will be looking at it, but we’ve never had a specific target for growth.’

Akin Gump was not the only major American outfit to make a move against a US counterpart last week, with Kirkland also inflicting a rare partner loss on Proskauer Rose after hiring funds partner Andrew Shore. The move deepens the blow inflicted on Proskauer after Kirkland recruited a 20-strong transactions team in Los Angeles last week, including partners Michael Woronoff, Monica Shilling and Chris Wu.

The London-based Shore had been at Proskauer since 2017 and counts Montagu Private Equity, HGCapital and G Sqaure on his client list. Shore joins a team led by partners Chris Braunack and Richard Watkins, and his arrival marks the latest in a spree of City additions for Kirkland, the most notable of which was the hire of Freshfields private equity playmaker Adrian Maguire in January. Elsewhere, Sidley Austin hired regulatory and criminal investigations partner Sara George from Stephenson Harwood.

While US firms were growth mode, upwardly-mobile City player Fladgate also strengthened its London bench with the hire of corporate partner Anthony Shatz from RPC. The move brings to an end a six-year spell at RPC for Shatz. Fladgate, for its part, has been aggressively expanded of late having made 36 partner hires since 2015.

‘We’re really pleased with Anthony’s arrival,’ Fladgate chairman Richard Reuben told Legal Business. ‘It fits with our strategy to expand our corporate practice, including funds and private equity. It was a combination of knowing what we wanted and knowing he was available. He ticks all the boxes.’ In one of the larger acquisitions for the 160-lawyer London firm, client conflict issues saw a CMS real estate team migrate to Fladgate in November of last year.

Legal Business

‘Client conflict issues’ sees 10-strong CMS real estate team decamp to Fladgate

‘Client conflict issues’ sees 10-strong CMS real estate team decamp to Fladgate

Following the hires of CMS real estate heavyweights Alan Karsberg and Simon Kanter last month, Fladgate has added to the blow, with the duo now bringing across an eight-lawyer team in London.

Both partners were veterans of legacy Olswang, with Kanter joining the firm in 2006 after Olswang’s acquisition of Kanter Jules. Meanwhile Karsberg enjoyed two stints at Olswang, starting as a solicitor at the firm in 1999 before a spell in-house at Merrill Lynch. He re-joined Olswang in 2004.

CMS cited ‘confidential client conflict issues’ as the reason for the exodus in a written statement. The wider team leaving for Fladgate is comprised of four senior associates and three associates, as well as one member of the support team. Senior associate James Norton will be joining Fladgate as partner in the move.

The moves are a significant fillip for Fladgate’s bench in the City and follow a sustained investment in the last four years. This year alone, it has hired at partner level insolvency and restructuring lawyer Daniel Martin from Ropes & Gray, commercial and financial services litigation partner Ben Drew from Osborne Clarke, real estate partner Helen Curtis-Goulding from Mishcon de Reya, Sandra Bates, capital markets and resources partner from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, disputes and arbitration partner David Breslin from Gowling WLG and property litigation partner Tim Foley from Clyde & Co.

Fladgate chairman, Richard Reuben, commented: ‘Simon and Alan’s team has a long track record of success and we are delighted that a team of this calibre has joined Fladgate. It is a testament to the strength of our existing platform and the firm’s ambitions that they have chosen to come across to us.’

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: DWF and Fladgate bolster City recruitment as Ashurst goes large internationally

Revolving Doors: DWF and Fladgate bolster City recruitment as Ashurst goes large internationally

City recruitment was strong last week as DWF and Fladgate followed headline laterals at White & Case and Ashurst with London plays. International recruitment, meanwhile, continued a strong run of form.

DWF added to its City insurance practice with the hire of Iftikhar Ali from Simmons & Simmons, where he led the construction all risks practice. Ali will work on construction, power and engineering claims, and has represented clients including Chubb, Aviva, and Zurich.

Commenting on the hire, DWF partner Kieran Walshe said: ‘Iftikhar brings a breadth of expertise on managing coverage and liability claims all around the world and will provide a particular strength in construction market and sector expertise when working alongside our UAE and Latin America offices.’

Meanwhile, Fladgate also made moves in the City, with the hire of David Breslin as a partner to the firm’s dispute resolution team. Breslin joins from Gowling WLG, where he led the international arbitration and insurance teams, having previously been head of dispute resolution at legacy Lawrence Graham.

Fladgate chairman Richard Reuben commented: ‘David’s appointment reflects our continued commitment to building strength in depth in our core practices and to further developing our specialist capabilities.’

Further afield moves continued apace, led by Ashurst’s array of international moves. In Germany, the firm appointed Nicolas Nohlen as a partner to its dispute resolution practice in Frankfurt, having joined from Hengeler Mueller. Nohlen’s work covers commercial litigation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution, with particular regard to corporate, capital market and commercial law disputes.

In neighbouring France, Ashurst made two hires to its Paris office with the appointment of Noam Ankri and Vincent Trevisani as partners to its corporate team. Ankri joins from the London office of DLA Piper, having begun his career at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in Paris in 2001. Trevisani joins from Watson Farley & Williams, where he had been a partner since 2012.

Ashurst rounded off its international shopping spree with the hire of partners Alex Guy and Dan Brown to the firm’s projects practice in Brisbane. The pair cover sectors ranging from transportation and infrastructure to renewable and conventional energy projects.

Returning to Europe, King & Spalding hired tax partner Jonathan Ivinson in its Geneva office from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the second partner to join that office this year.

Across the Atlantic in the US, Cooley added Eric Kuwana to its securities and litigation practice. Kuwana will be based in Washington and New York, and joins from Katten Muchin Roseman where he was partner and co-chair of the firm’s securities litigation and enforcement practice.

Rounding off the international moves, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe announced the hire of Geoff Willard to the firm’s technology companies group as partner in Washington. Willard acts as a strategic adviser to technology and other growth companies, and focuses on equity investments, acquisitions and joint ventures.

Legal Business

Management moves: succession planning in train at Burges Salmon and Fladgate 

Management moves: succession planning in train at Burges Salmon and Fladgate 

Two senior figures at Legal Business 100 firms Burges Salmon and Fladgate will see their tenures come to an end in the coming months as the firms announce a new managing partner and chairman respectively.

Bristol-headquartered Burges Salmon has appointed head of employment Roger Bull its new managing partner, replacing Peter Morris, effective from May.

Bull (pictured, left) joined Burges Salmon in 1995 and has been a partner since 2003, as well as a member of its executive committee between 2009 and 2011.

He has been head of the firm’s employment team since 2011 and will maintain responsibility for some key client relationships in his new role, although partner Adrian Martin is to take over as head of that team.

Bull succeeds the incumbent Morris (pictured, right) who has been managing partner since 2010 and will remain at the firm to assist with the transition.

Morris said Bull and senior partner Chris Seaton (who was appointed to replace Alan Barr almost a year ago) would make a strong management team: ‘I am confident that Burges Salmon will continue to prosper in their safe hands’.

Typically a strong performer financially with robust profitability, the firm’s bottom line last year fell for the first time in six years, dropping 8% on flat revenues, which it attributed to the impact of Brexit. Profit per equity partner (PEP) also fell to £435,000 from the previous year’s £525,000.

Elsewhere one of the LB100’s strongest-performing firms in recent years, Fladgate, has elected Richard Reuben to replace Charles Wander as its new chair, effective from April.

Wander had been chairman of West End-based Fladgate – a firm which has seen its revenue nearly double to £49.2m in the past decade – since 2011. Reuben, who was the firm’s head of real estate, will be replaced in that role by Stephen Lewis.

Reuben said Wander, who will stay on as a consultant practising in the corporate group, had made an enormous contribution to the firm. Fladgate’s goal for 2020 was to add another 40% to its turnover to take it to between £65m and £70m.

He added: ‘As Fladgate looks to the future, our intention is to build on the financial strength of the business by attracting the highest quality talent that will enable us to continue to deliver success on a consistent basis for the benefit of future generations of partners and employees.’

Yesterday (8 January), the firm also appointed former Gordon Dadds partner Jan Hoppe to its corporate and German team, to advise on M&A matters with a cross-border focus.

Legal Business

Funding issue sees Signature Litigation replace Fladgate on RBS litigation


Having helped secure third-party funding, City boutique Signature Litigation has been instructed by the RBS Shareholders Action Group in its high profile £1.2bn court battle against the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the second change for the case and a move which has replaced Fladgate.

In November last year Legal Business revealed that Bird & Bird had lost its high profile advisory role on the complex RBS shareholder dispute over its 2008 rights issue, a significant instruction that was given to Fladgate.

But that has now been handed to Signature, with founder and partner Graham Huntley going on the record in mid-July. Huntley has instructed 3 Verulam Buildings duo Jonathan Nash and Peter de Verneuil Smith, who appeared for the group at the case management conference last week, along with junior Ian Higgins.

Bird & Bird had been representing the bank’s former chief executive John Greenwood and the RBoS Shareholders Action Group Limited, with around 12,000 retail and around 100 corporate, institutional and charitable members (the BB Action Group). At the time the firm said it had continued to ‘work on their behalf despite issues with receiving payment of fees from the Action Group’.

According to one source close to the case, this time there has been no disagreement between the claimants and Fladgate in relation to fees but rather the absence of funding for the case as the ‘money ran out’. However, John Campbell QC, a representative for the client group, said in evidence to the Court that ‘the instruction of Signature brought to the Group some legal advisers who clearly had more experience than many in funding, and funding negotiations’, adding that ‘all the previous stumbling blocks have been overcome as we have secured an agreement with respect to our current funder’.

A statement issued today (3 August) stated that funding had ‘hampered the group’s ability to participate in recent months’, something which Mr Campbell said in evidence Signature had ‘worked hard to resolve’.

Signature’s claimant group is the largest of three currently in dispute with RBS, with the others represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Stewarts Law.

The action is being brought against the bank’s former chief executive Fred Goodwin and three other directors, and relates to a rights issue in April 2008, in which RBS sold its shares at £2 per share. The claimants allege that the prospectus on which the rights issue was based was ‘defective’ and contained material misstatements and omissions.

Herbert Smith Freehills continues to defend RBS in both cases.

Legal Business

RBS Litigation: Bird & Bird loses major instruction on RBS Group Action to Fladgate


A major blow has been dealt to Bird & Bird as it has emerged that the firm has lost its advisory role on the highly complex Royal Bank of Scotland shareholder dispute, a significant instruction which has subsequently been given to Fladgate.  

Bird & Bird was heading one of two large claims against RBS, with a team led by its dispute resolution head Steven Baker and Serle Court’s Philip Marshall QC, who continues to act as lead counsel. The firm picked up the mandate as Baker took the RBS case with him when he joined from Olswang in 2012. The Group Action’s website now states: ‘We are represented by the leading law firm Fladgate, which has an outstanding track record in corporate litigation.’

Bird & Bird had been representing the bank’s former chief executive John Greenwood and the RBoS Shareholders Action Group Limited, with around 12,000 retail and around 100 corporate, institutional and charitable members (the BB Action Group). 

Having lost the instruction last Wednesday (12 November), the firm said in a statement: ‘In what is a very complex and substantial claim our team has worked extremely hard for the group of claimants to ensure their case has been taken forward effectively, and we have continued to work on their behalf despite issues with receiving payment of our fees from the Action Group. We are therefore disappointed that the Action Group has chosen to take the decision to dis-instruct us, but we wish the claimants success in their ongoing legal dispute’

The floodgates opened for RBS following its £20bn government bailout in 2008, with investors seeking to recoup their losses following its nationalisation.

The action is being brought against the bank’s former chief executive Fred Goodwin and three other directors, and relates to a rights issue in April 2008, in which RBS sold its shares at £2 per share. The claimants allege that the prospectus on which the rights issue was based was ‘defective’ and contained material misstatements and omissions.

Earlier this year, Baker was criticised at the High Court over a £500m fluctuation in the value of the claim. In his witness statement to the court in November 2013, Baker told the court: ‘the losses suffered by the members of the BB Action Group who have actually issued proceedings so far would equate to approximately £900m…and the total acquisition value of those claimants’ shares is £1.25bn.’

Such figures were subsequently relied on by Mr Justice Hildyard in the third case management conference, however, in his seventh witness statement in January in the proceedings, Baker corrected these figures to £392m (in place of £900m) and approximately £490m (in place of £1.125bn) respectively.

RBS is also facing a second case involving a group of 313 claimants that comprises a number of UK and international financial institutions and pension funds, led by Stewarts Law partner Clive Zietman and 3 Verulam Buildings’ Andrew Onslow QC.

Herbert Smith Freehills continues to defend RBS in both cases.

Legal Business

Field Fisher loses construction head to Fladgate weeks after loss of privacy head to Hogan Lovells


Just weeks after Field Fisher Waterhouse lost its head of privacy Eduardo Ustaran to Hogan Lovells, the 350-lawyer UK top 40 firm has seen head of construction Alan Woolston move to West End firm Fladgate.

Woolston, who specialises in construction and engineering law, takes associate Chris Farrell with him and his arrival brings the number of partners in Fladgate’s construction and projects team to eight.

The hire comes as Fladgate pursues a strategy to build up its construction and projects team, having brought in Rosenblatt’s former head of projects, contracts and infrastructure Cathy Ley in June this year.

Meanwhile, Woolston’s departure from Field Fisher comes after Ustaran – a senior equity partner who built and led the firm’s first-tier privacy and information law group – in October joined 2527-lawyer Hogan Lovells’ global privacy and information practice to manage its European capability.

Ustaran was notably held to a 19-month notice period but it is understood that the same draconian restrictions will not apply to Woolston, who has been at the firm for five years was not an equity partner.

It’s been a turbulent time for 150-partner Field Fisher, following unsuccessful merger discussions with both Laurence Graham in June 2012 and Osborne Clarke in January this year.

The 358-lawyer firm unveiled a 3% drop in revenue this year to £95m alongside an 8% drop in profit per equity partner to £398,000. In contrast, the past financial year saw Fladgate’s PEP rise by 2% to £406,000.

Woolston said of his appointment: ‘Fladgate has an ambitious plan for its future development. This, combined with its established construction and projects team, international focus and expertise in complementary areas, provides an exciting opportunity for me to develop my practice and to build the relationships for the benefit of my clients.’

Legal Business

Back of the net: BLP and Fladgate advise on Gareth Bale’s £85m transfer to Real Madrid


It was a busy football transfer window for some of the UK’s leading law firms, with Berwin Leighton Paisner’s Graham Shear and a host of Fladgate partners advising Premier League footballer Gareth Bale on his record-breaking transfer to Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur for (€100m) £85m. Slaughter and May and Charles Russell were also both very active on deadline day yesterday (2 September).

Media and sports disputes partner Shear is a longstanding advisor to Bale as well as a good friend of Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy. Shear spent five years as managing partner at West End firm Teacher Stern where he advised Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez’s agent Kia Joorabchian on the player’s move to Manchester City from rival Manchester United in 2009.

Shear also currently advises Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, and negotiated the footballer’s £25,000 phone hacking settlement with the News of the World in 2012.

Legal Business100 firm Fladgate meanwhile, also acted for Bale on the transfer. A cross-firm team advised on various aspects of the transaction, led by the firm’s head of corporate Grant Gordon, alongside sports partner Alan Wetterhahn and tax partner Huw Witty.

Gordon said: ‘Transfer deals of this nature are becoming ever more complex, reflecting the need for advice on a myriad of elements, including corporate, tax, regulatory, IP, image and media rights, and employment.’

‘This matter had to accommodate a number of competing interests and, of course, was against a background of intense press speculation. We are delighted to have been able to act for Gareth and wish him every success in his move to Real Madrid.’

Meanwhile, Slaughter and May partner Andrew Jolly advised Arsenal FC on its club record £42.4m purchase of Germany international Mesut Özil from Real Madrid; the acquisition of Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre; and the transfers of Gervinho to AS Roma, Marouane Chamakh to Crystal Palace, and André Santos to Flamengo.

Charles Russell advised on Mathieu Flamini’s return to Arsenal after five years with AC Milan. The team, led by the joint head of the firm’s sports group, Ian Lynam, also acted on Kolo Toure’s move from Manchester City to Liverpool and Gael Clichy’s new contract at Manchester City.