Legal Business

‘Independent thinker’ Greenberg Traurig picks Milan as latest step of unusual European footprint

‘Independent thinker’ Greenberg Traurig picks Milan as latest step of unusual European footprint

Greenberg Traurig’s executive chair Richard Rosenbaum has pointed to his firm’s track record for independent thinking as it enters Italy through a merger in Milan.

In July, the northern Italian city will become the location of the Miami-bred firm’s 40th office, after Greenberg absorbs its local ally of 14 years, Santa Maria Studio Legale. Two Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer veterans will also join the firm’s first Italian base: local real estate head Marzio Longo and finance partner Corrado Angelelli, giving it a starting team of around 50 lawyers.

Legal Business

International round-up: Greenberg Traurig enters Italy through Milan merger as Latham goes big in Japan

International round-up: Greenberg Traurig enters Italy through Milan merger as Latham goes big in Japan

Greenberg Traurig is to open its fifth European office via the acquisition of a Milan boutique and the hire of two veterans from the Italian branch of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

The US firm announced yesterday (16 May) that as of July the northern Italian city will become the location of its 40th office worldwide while its European lawyer headcount will hit 300.

It has merged with its 30-lawyer Italian ally of 14 years, Santa Maria Studio Legale and hired Freshfields Italy real estate head Marzio Longo and finance partner Corrado Angelelli. Luigi Santa Maria and Mario Santa Maria will serve as co-managing partners of the office, which will be known as Greenberg Traurig Santa Maria. Santa Maria Studio Legale was founded more than 50 years ago and operates in competition, litigation, M&A and finance. It signed an alliance with Greenberg in 2005.

Greenberg’s Milan launch follows London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Warsaw. Its relatively conservative European expansion has been unusual path US firms, usually more focused on the continent’s larger financial centres of Paris and Frankfurt.

Italy has traditionally been a complicated market for UK and US players, with their models hard to combine with a market largely dominated by a small group of veterans more inclined to run their own independent firms than take orders from abroad. However, relatively recent entrants including Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, White & Case and Dentons have built successful niches in the market.

‘This is a unique opportunity given our close relationship with Studio Santa Maria and its highly regarded place in the Italian market,’ said Greenberg executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum. ‘For more than 50 years, we have guarded our unified, collaborative, and non-bureaucratic culture as we have grown, maintaining our core values of excellence and sincere respect and trust of the individuals on the ground in all our locations. This unique combination has resulted in a broad and deep platform while retaining the feeling of empowerment and ability to change.’

Meanwhile, Latham has doubled the partner headcount of its Tokyo office. The firm has added corporate partners Ivan Smallwood, Noah Carr, and Stuart Beraha from the Japanese arm of Morrison & Foerster.

‘The Japanese market, with its sophisticated global needs, continues to be very important to our platform,’ said Latham chair and managing partner Rich Trobman. ‘Ivan, Noah, and Stuart are a cohesive team who will add momentum to an already powerful practice, serving leading multinationals to fast-growth startups across the Pacific Rim and around the world, spanning diverse industries from financial services to technology.’

Japanese M&A deals surged last year. Japanese companies were involved in 430 deals for a total value of $214bn in 2018, more than double the total for 2017 and the highest since records began in 1980, according to Mergermarket.

Legal Business

Life during law: Paul Maher

Life during law: Paul Maher

I grew up in North West London. My parents came from working-class, Irish Catholic backgrounds from Liverpool. Nobody had been to university. My mum left school at 14 but she was always keen on education.

I did law at Bristol University. It was in the pre-Thatcher days and I was lucky enough to be sent to university by the ‘Socialist Republic of Brent’. They paid for everything.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Ashurst and Greenberg Traurig strengthen City benches as Pinsents sees moves both ways

Revolving Doors: Ashurst and Greenberg Traurig strengthen City benches as Pinsents sees moves both ways

A bumper week for City and international lateral hires followed the Easter break last week with Ashurst and Greenberg Traurig among those to make strategic additions in London, strengthening their real estate and white-collar practices respectively.

Ashurst announced the hire of Alison Hardy from Squire Patton Boggs where she was national head of its property litigation team. James Levy, head of Ashurst’s London disputes practice, said: ‘Alison is a highly regarded and experienced real estate litigator. We have every confidence that she will deliver great results for clients and play a key role in further developing our capability in high value disputes.’

Similarly, US firm Greenberg Traurig made a significant lateral move in the City as it secured the services of white-collar defence and investigations specialist Barry Vitou from Pinsent Masons, who will now lead its London practice.

Vitou holds expertise working on corruption, money laundering and the UK Bribery Act. Greenberg vice chair Paul Maher said: ‘We are always exploring ways to enhance what we can offer clients. This is one of the things we will achieve with the expected addition of Barry Vitou.’

Pinsents, for its part, strengthened its restructuring team with the addition of Samantha Palmer as partner. Palmer joins from Ashfords where she was a board member and head of professional and financial risks. She also has previous experience with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), where she headed up the financial stability programme.

Pinsents said: ‘Samantha’s arrival enhances our ability to provide a market-leading offering in terms of the restructuring of professional practices, advising lenders to professional practices, business-structure work for investors into the legal sector and pure regulatory advice for law firms themselves.’

Elsewhere in London, experienced private client specialist Jonathan Kropman will be leaving post-merger Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) to join Trowers & Hamlins to lead its private wealth team. Kropman had led legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner’s private client group for 13 years.

BCLP however was at the forefront of European activity this last week, deepening its German footprint with the hire of Bernd Geier to lead the firm’s financial regulation practise in Frankfurt.

Geier leaves Dentons, where he occupied a similar role leading its financial regulation and funds practice. Roland Fabian, managing partner for BCLP Germany, said in a statement: ‘Through this expansion of our regulatory expertise, we will be able to offer clients comprehensive advice on their increasingly complex regulatory matters, particularly in the context of the impending Brexit.’

Despite the loss, Dentons also made moves in Europe as partner Giangiacomo Olivi joins the firm’s Milan office. Arriving from DLA Piper, Olivi will now spearhead Dentons’ data privacy team.

Further afield, Clyde & Co appointed Cameron Thomson as a partner in its Sydney office, with the real estate expert leaving Norton Rose Fulbright. In a statement Clydes said: ‘Cameron’s capabilities, along with the firm’s extensive footprint in the region, made establishing a dedicated non-contentious real estate practice in Australia the next logical step’

Stephenson Harwood was also among those that saw activity in Asia-Pacific, with the arrival of partner Allen Shyu from Troutman Sanders to its Beijing office, after the US firm announced the closure of its office earlier this year. Shyu, who joined Troutman from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe’s Hong Kong office, will lead on involved in capital markets deals, M&A and private equity matters.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is also committed to international hires in Hong Kong by securing two partners from US counterpart Weil, Gotshal & Manges. John Fadely and Albert Cho are poised to join Gibson’s investment funds group after their respective stints at Weil, which lasted eight and four years respectively. Gibson chairman and managing partner Ken Doran said: ‘We are focused on building a premier corporate practise in Asia that complements our private equity and M&A practices in the US, Europe and the Middle East.’

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Greenberg hires to support new KWM team as A&O and Fieldfisher add to their benches

Revolving doors: Greenberg hires to support new KWM team as A&O and Fieldfisher add to their benches

Greenberg Taurig has made another lateral play in the City to build on its real estate funds hires from King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) as Weightmans, Paul Hastings, Mayer Brown, Allen & Overy (A&O) and Fieldfisher have all made new appointments.

Greenberg has hired rising star Dani Martin from Reed Smith as a partner to work alongside its new recruits from KWM’s European practice. Martin will work alongside funds heavyweight Steve Cowins and five other partners who moved to Greenberg as a team. Martin worked in the real estate team at Reed Smith and was promoted to partner in 2013. Her key clients include M7 Real Estate Limited, Starwood Capital, Trinity Investment Management, Goldman Sachs, Oaktree Capital. Last week Greenberg confirmed new clients for the firm include CBRE, Westfield and British Airways’ Pension Fund, following the team’s hire. 

Meanwhile Paul Hastings has also benefited from downfall of KWM’s European arm, with the hire of Jean-Louis Martin to its Paris real estate team.

Martin, who moves with associates Arielle Messawer, David Bensimon and Quentin Jobard, was head of real estate at KWM in Paris.

Paul Hastings chair Seth Zachary said: ‘His reputation with clients in the real estate and private equity funds sectors mirrors our own strengths in our European and global offices.’

Fieldfisher has appointed Thomas Lenné as a partner in its Brussels office. Lenné joins from Baker & McKenzie, bringing 11 years of experience in the private equity, construction, aviation, banking energy and TMT sectors.

A&O has announced the appointment of David Shen to its international Intellectual Property (IP) practice. He joins from AstraZeneca where he has held the role of general counsel for China. Shen, who will join A&O’s China practice, has a comprehensive background in patent litigation and regulatory and compliance issues related to the life sciences sector.

Weightmans has hired Helen Brown as partner for the firm’s local government team in Leeds, joining from Langleys. Brown was Langley’s deputy head of insurance law and head of the public sector unit.

Mitchell Holzrichter has re-joined Mayer Brown, being appointed as a partner in the government practice and global infrastructure group in Chicago. Holzrichter’s reunion with the firm comes after a tenure as deputy chief of staff for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner’s office. He had worked at Mayer Brown in the past, from 2008 to early 2015.

In in-house news, Airbnb has hired Fiona Dormandy as general counsel (GC) for the EMEA region. Dormandy who departed Betfair in March 2016, replaces former GC Aoife McArdle, who is director of business.

Legal Business

Greenberg reveals list of European relationships gained through KWM hires

Greenberg reveals list of European relationships gained through KWM hires

Following the collapse of King & Wood Mallesons‘ (KWM) European arm last week and the lateral moves of all but 33 of its partners, Greenberg Traurig has confirmed CBRE, Westfield and British Airways’ Pension Fund have followed a six-strong group of former KWM partners to Greenberg as new clients.

Others in the list that Greenberg will now advise include Brockton, Cain Hoy, Europa Capital, M3 Capital, Paloma Capital, Revcap and Rockspring.

The group joined Greenberg in late December and includes real estate funds partners Steven Cowins and Marc Snell, real estate partner Matthew Priday, corporate finance partners Michael Goldberg and David Fitzgerald, and tax partner Clive Jones and their respective teams.

The Crown Estate, another one of Cowins’ (pictured) key clients, announced earlier this month that following a review process last year it has given Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) the sole mandate for its £7bn Central London property portfolio. The Crown Estate has not been named as a new client by Greenberg.

Greenberg executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum said: ‘We are pleased to see that our strategy of delivering excellence and value in both real estate and funds across the firm attracted these top tier lawyers to our London office.’

‘We are of course excited that world class, sophisticated companies of this nature would choose to follow, and are committed to serving them as the very important clients they are,’ he added.

The list represents mostly clients that were brought on by Cowins, whilst some clients went to Greenberg through other team members.

According to Ashfords partner Sam Palmer, who as solicitor manager to legacy SJ Berwin’s administrators Quantuma has been dealing with the orderly transfer of client files since the practice went into administration, only around 5% of clients decide not to follow partners to their new firms and decide to take their work in progress elsewhere.

While Greenberg is adding to its books, Quantuma released their first interim report to creditors earlier this week. This concluded that partner exits accelerated the demise of legacy SJ Berwin practice, and begins an investigation into the firm’s previous financial practices.

Legal Business

KWM exits continue as DLA and Greenberg pick up teams

KWM exits continue as DLA and Greenberg pick up teams

DLA Piper and Greenberg Traurig are the latest to benefit from a swathe of exits at King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) European arm.

DLA Piper will take on real estate partner William Naunton (pictured) and several members of his team including partners Cornelius Medvei, Bryan Pickup, Ed Page, George Burrha and Jeremy Brooks. Managing associate Omer Maroof will also join as a partner. They join alongside eight other lawyers and three trainees, and are expected to join DLA mid-January.

Naunton is a significant biller for KWM, having billed almost £4m for the firm in the last year. When he joined KWM alongside Clive Jones and former Eversheds partner Cornelius Medvei in late 2014, the team was seen as key to KWM’s aim to expand its structured, high-end real estate offering. On joining DLA, he will become co-head of the UK real estate group.

However, Jones will join Greenberg Traurig. Alongside Jones the US firm also hired private equity funds partners Steven Cowins and Marc Snell, M&A partners Michael Goldberg and David Fitzgerald and partner Matthew Priday along with their teams.

Cowins is one of KWM’s top billers, having joined SJ Berwin in 2005. He specialises in real estate funds and joint ventures and counts Crown Estate among his clients. Goldberg and Priday focus on commercial real estate investment and have British Land on their client roster.

These are the latest in a long line of defects from KWM’s European business; heavyweight biller Michael Halford has last month joined Goodwin Procter with the other funds partners Ajay Pathak, Ed Hall, Shawn D’Aguiar and Patrick Deasy.

Corporate finance partner Andrew Wingfield and former managing partner Rob Day joined Proskauer Rose. The pair’s resignation, along with Halford’s exit and Jonathan Pittal also handing in his notice caused KWM to halt its recapitalisation plans in October. The firm has since failed in its plans to restabilise the business, and is expected to enter administration in January 2017.

Former KWM managing partner William Boss was hired earlier this month by Addleshaw Goddard, alongside Simon Tager and Michael Scott. Meanwhile former senior partner Stephen Kon confirmed last week he would retire from the law.

Another firm in talks with a number of partners is Reed Smith, while KWM’s own Asian arm is trying to secure a European presence through an office spin-off. Although it had expressed interest in a merger deal, Dentons has since pulled out of discussions.

For more on King & Wood Mallesons, subscribers can read ‘Branded’ for an in-depth look at the firm. 

Legal Business

With one hand they give… Greenberg promotes Maher but the name goes in London

With one hand they give… Greenberg promotes Maher but the name goes in London

It was an unusual gesture when Greenberg Traurig put Paul Maher’s name in the title of its London practice, even for one of the City’s best known deal lawyers, but the Florida-bred giant has confirmed that it is dropping Maher from its City brand.

The move comes in a governance shake-up that sees Maher elevated to global vice chair at Greenberg Traurig. Maher, who had quit a senior role at his nearly namesake Mayer Brown to launch the US firm’s London arm in 2009 under the name Greenberg Traurig Maher, takes on one of three new vice chair roles. The new management roles were created earlier in the year, when Brian Duffy replaced Richard Rosenbaum as chief executive, but had not been filled until now. Rosenbaum moved to executive chairman on 1 January 2016.

Maher – regarded as one of the City’s most driven deal lawyers – told Legal Business: ‘It’s time. It lasted longer than I thought it would. It was a transitional thing. It was my decision and it’s the right decision. I’ve got my name back!’

Greenberg said in a statement that the name change is ‘intended to emphasise the unified and collaborative nature of the firm in today’s world’.

The changes follow Greenberg Traurig’s annual mid-year leadership meeting, and see Maher’s fellow co-chair of the global corporate and securities practice, Patricia Menéndez-Cambó, and New York litigation chair Richard Edlin also made global vice chairs.

Rosenbaum said: ‘When we created the executive chairman role, we contemplated adding vice chairs who would assist with the firm’s strategic direction as well as high-level selling and recruiting, while they continue to lead their busy legal practices.’

The tweaks in London come after Greenberg held much-publicised merger talks with Berwin Leighton Paisner earlier this year, which were abandoned. Greenberg currently has nearly 50 lawyers based in London.

Legal Business

Comment: The tiger that came to eat BLP’s culture for breakfast and other sorry tales

Comment: The tiger that came to eat BLP’s culture for breakfast and other sorry tales

These are tough times for another house that Stanley Berwin built, with exhibit B being the acrimonious end of merger talks between Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Greenberg Traurig. While the practice fit between the two looked both convincing and distinctive, these were two firms with plenty of strong characters.

Summing up the prospect of the proposed deal recently, Legal Business noted that proceeding with a union would be holding ‘the proverbial tiger by the tail’. So it quickly proved, as on 16 March the pair officially called time on the discussions amid some discontent from the US firm, which was unhappy at the messages being put out by BLP at the end of the talks.

It was the US firm that walked away, in part because it saw the merger as too heavily weighted towards real estate, but there was a more personal breakdown in chemistry as well. This dynamic was amplified in a 538-word statement issued by Greenberg’s executive chair Richard Rosenbaum, which aside from noting that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ drowned its former suitor in faint praise beyond some warm words for BLP’s real estate team.

The US firm subsequently indicated it was generally unimpressed with BLP’s management and handling of the talks. It was a substantial break from the well-established protocols for bland post-talks flannel law firms usually adhere to. But given the iconoclastic, thrusting style for which Greenberg is well known, such an outcome was hardly a shock.

The bigger issue for BLP is where to go from here. Not because merger talks with one suitor went nowhere – that’s just business – but because the firm has committed itself to a real estate-heavy strategy that looks very hard to execute without a US merger and because BLP is still an institution uncomfortable in its skin.

What was once one of the most assured mid-tier players in the City – indeed, through the 2000s BLP was one of the most influential law firms outside the Magic Circle – has been beset by conflicting views and factions since its troubled 2012/13 year. The use of guaranteed pay deals for lateral hires has now taken on a symbolic weight beyond all proportion to its historic use at the firm for those who see the tactic as evidence of an ‘us and them’ culture.

While financial performance has more than stabilised in the last two years, it’s not apparent that has been enough to heal its divisions or how credible it is to regroup around real estate once again after more than a decade of talking up its transactional business.

BLP has a lot going for it still but so do many other major UK law firms that have spent the last ten years drifting unhappily. BLP made its reputation by standing out during the 2000s against a backdrop of underwhelming City peers.

It is now competing against a range of mid-pack players that are some of the strongest performers in the UK. It will need to find a message to galvanise the whole firm.

Legal Business

‘Not enough common ground’ – BLP and Greenberg call off transatlantic merger bid

‘Not enough common ground’ – BLP and Greenberg call off transatlantic merger bid

It promised to create a property and disputes giant across the Atlantic and one of the most distinctive law firms in the global market but in the end the mooted union between Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Greenberg Traurig has been called off.

The talks, which the pair confirmed in February, had enjoyed substantial support in BLP’s muscular real estate practice and had been cited as a means of the City firm achieving its strategy of being the world’s leading property and infrastructure adviser.

BLP managing partner Lisa Mayhew confirmed to Legal Business on Wednesday (16 March) that the merger discussions had ended. Mayhew (pictured) commented: ‘There was no one single thing. There was enough there to warrant proper consideration but in the final analysis there just wasn’t enough common ground to progress the conversation further.’

A deal would have created a firm with 2,700 lawyers and revenues of over a £1bn. Both firms had already made it clear that a deal would have involved full financial integration, which would have led to challenges over unifying their accounting and compensation systems.

There is a gap in profitability between the two firms. PEP at Greenberg stood at $1.424m in 2014, against £661,000 ($1.090m) for the UK firm’s 2014-15 year.

However, Mayhew said that the challenge of putting together Greenberg’s more individualistic partner pay model with BLP’s modified lockstep was not the deal-breaker, adding: ‘There wasn’t one single killer issue.’

However, Greenberg has said that it ultimately walked away from a merger because of its belief that ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’ and its ‘conservative approach to financial risk’.

In a statement, executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum said: ‘Greenberg Traurig is a substantially larger and more diversified firm than BLP. We therefore maintain much broader practice priorities. The core real estate practice which first attracted us is indeed impressive, as are other BLP practices, and we have a great deal of respect for the firm as a whole. Real estate is, of course, a core practice and one of our strongest brands, along with litigation and corporate (M&A, private equity, capital markets, finance), which are our largest areas… For Greenberg Traurig, it was quite exciting to enhance our practices, but not at the risk of materially diluting our cultural, financial and other priorities. This is what our diligence has been all about.’

‘After spending a substantial amount of personal time on this opportunity, visiting nearly every location and meeting so many fine BLP partners, I must admit to some regret in this decision.  But in the final analysis, we are a business. However exciting, we do not grow for growth’s sake and we do not ‘fall in love’ with a story or act on emotion; we run a disciplined operation, and will continue to run it and achieve our stated goals for the benefit of the many families who are dependent on us every day.  We have added many shareholders, practices and offices in the last months and years and must intensely focus on integration and execution, including our continued build-out of a first class London office of an appropriate size in today’s world and the number one global real estate practice.’

The end of the talks leave the thorny strategic issue for BLP of whether to pursue another substantive tie-up in the US as some partners believe the UK law firm should do. Mayhew said BLP retains an open mind on the point but was committed to its ambitious strategy.

For further comment on the pitfalls hampering merger discussions between BLP and Greenberg Traurig, see Merging BLP and Greenberg Traurig – unique, compelling, bloody difficult