Legal Business

Revolving doors: KWM disputes head joins Quinn Emanuel start-up in Sydney

Revolving doors: KWM disputes head joins Quinn Emanuel start-up in Sydney

The fallout from upheaval within firms in the upper echelons of the Australian legal market continues with news today (5 December) that King & Wood Mallesons‘ (KWM) global head of disputes Beau Deleuil has quit to join Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in Sydney.

The exit follows KWM merging with SJ Berwin, which went live on 1 November and after Deleuil was appointed to the newly created role of global practice co-ordinator of disputes.

The recruit is the third significant hire for US litigation boutique Quinn, which launched in Sydney in May this year after picking up two partners from another Anglo-Australian hybrid – Herbert Smith Freehills duo Michael Mills and Michelle Fox.

Deleuil joined Mallesons Stephen Jacques in Perth ten years ago as a solicitor and became a partner in 2001. He was named managing partner King & Wood Mallesons in Sydney in 2012 and national head of dispute resolution.

He has experience of advising on contentious and insolvency-matters within the financial services and property sectors, and specialises in commercial litigation, with a particular focus on insolvency, banking, professional indemnity and competition law, including pricing, access and regulatory matters.

Quinn Emanuel managing partner, John Quinn (pictured) said: ‘We are delighted that a lawyer of Beau’s stature has joined us. Beau instinctively understood the benefits of our firm. He is a litigator first and foremost. With Beau joining Michael and Michelle, we now have three of Australia’s top commercial litigation lawyers leading our Australian litigation team.’

Sydney managing partner at the firm Michelle Fox added: ‘Since opening, we have met with many of Australia’s leading companies and their general counsel. Beau’s name constantly came up as one of the most highly rated litigators in Australia. We also received very positive reactions to QE’s pure litigation model and global capability, all of which similarly appealed to Beau.’

Deleuil will join the Quinn’s Sydney office in April next year.

Legal Business

Panel review: Taylor Wessing and KWM SJ Berwin secure spots on property developer Essential Living’s ten-strong panel

Panel review: Taylor Wessing and KWM SJ Berwin secure spots on property developer Essential Living’s ten-strong panel

Newly-formed rental property developer Essential Living has appointed a ten-strong panel of law firms to its roster as it focuses on ambitious development targets for the coming year, with Taylor Wessing and King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin securing advisory roles ‘with an overarching brief to provide corporate, finance and delivery advice,’ a statement said today (26 November).

Taylor Wessing will provide advice on matters relating to corporate, construction, real estate finance, intellectual property, and employment while SJ Berwin will also advise on corporate and real estate finance as well as environment and planning.

Essential Living, the UK’s first developer and manager of purpose built homes for rent, has also afforded three-year contracts to LB100 firms Mishcon de Reya, Pinsent Masons, RPC, Cripps Harries Hall, DAC Beachcroft, Forsters, Trowers and Hamlins, and Winkworth Sherwood, after a comprehensive selection process.

The company was set up in September 2012 in partnership with real estate investment and advisory firm M3 Capital Partners.

Essential Living is aiming to provide 5,000 private rented homes over the next decade across London and the South East, with an initial $200m funding injection from a M3 Capital fund, Evergreen. The company has so far invested over £60m in development sites.

The company said the selected group has been chosen to advise the business as it looks ‘ahead to an intense period of development work’ with Martin Bellinger, chief operating officer of Essential Living adding: ‘After a fervent year of acquisitions, Essential Living will be very much evolving into a development business. As we increase the number of consultants we work with in delivering 5,000 homes for rent, it is vital we strive to achieve best value wherever possible and we are delighted to have finalised our legal panel.’

The appointment for SJ Berwin comes in the same month as its merger with King & Wood went live, with the firm to be known as King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin in the UK, Europe and Middle East for a transitional period, after which the SJ Berwin name will be dropped.

The panel in full:

• Taylor Wessing: Corporate, construction, real estate finance, IP, employment and general corporate

• KWM SJ Berwin: Corporate, environment & planning, real estate finance and general corporate

• Cripps Harries Hall: Acquisitions and property litigation

• DAC Beachcroft: Acquisitions and planning

• Forsters: Property litigation, property management and employment

• Mischon de Reya: Acquisitions, property litigation, planning and construction

• Pinsent Masons: Acquisitions, property litigation and registered providers

• RPC: Acquisitions

• Trowers and Hamlins: Construction and registered providers

• Winkworth Sherwood: Planning, property management and registered providers

Legal Business

It’s big, it’s here – King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin launches and unveils global management team

It’s big, it’s here – King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin launches and unveils global management team

It’s big, spanning continents, oceans, hugely disparate cultures and a complex governance and profit-sharing model and it’s going live today (1 November) – welcome to King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin.

The firm has now confirmed who will be taking on the task of managing the newly-merged giant after announcing the line-up of global practice heads and its new management committee. (For lawyers who spent their summer in a cave, the firm is the combination of top 25 UK practice SJ Berwin and Asia-Pacific giant King & Wood Mallesons).

Three practice leaders have been chosen from each legacy firm, which is a total of nine distinct practices. From SJ Berwin, former senior partner Jonathan Blake, one of the architects of the merger, is leading funds and private equity. Simon Holmes will head up the anti-trust and regulatory group and Bryan Pickup will lead the combined firm’s real estate practice.

King & Wood’s Rupert Li, international managing partner and former Clifford Chance partner, will lead the firm’s corporate practice, projects – including energy and resources – will be headed by Handel Lee and Nongfan Zhu will lead intellectual property. These partners remain based Beijing.

From legacy Mallesons, Yuen-Yee Cho will head banking and finance, Justin Cherrington will take charge of tax and Beau Deleuil will manage the dispute resolution practice. All are based in Sydney.

The merged firm has also appointed an international management committee (IMC), which includes representatives from the UK, China and Australia. Legacy SJ Berwin managing partner Rob Day and senior partner Stephen Kon, who also chairs the firm’s international partnership board, have been appointed from the UK. M&A partner Maxence Bloch, a member of the global partnership board and Stefan Kruger, who heads SJ Berwin’s German IP practice, are also on the committee.

From legacy Mallesons, members of the IMC include global managing partner Stuart Fuller, country managing partner Sue Kench, Australia chair Stephen Minns and corporate partner David Friedlander.

King & Wood’s representatives in the IMC include Wang Junfeng, founding partner of King & Wood and chair of the IMC, Wang Ling, managing partner of King & Wood and head of the finance practice, Zhang Yi, managing partner of King & Wood’s Shanghai office, and M&A partner Wang Rongkang.

The firm also has a core executive committee, which is led by global managing partner Stuart Fuller and includes Kench, Ling, Day and Li.

Fuller told Legal Business that pre-launch integration had gone ‘incredibly smoothly’, adding: ‘I learned a lot of lessons from the King & Wood Mallesons merger.’

He added: ‘We had a meeting of 54 practice group leaders in September who discussed their main clients, product areas, business plans and secondment plans. Clients haven’t waited until November, the amount of enquiries and referrals has been very strong across the markets.’

The Swiss verein-structured law firm, which agreed the tie-up in July, will have combined revenues of over $1bn and is made up of four partnerships in Australia, China, Hong Kong and the UK. After a short transition period operating under the name of King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin in Europe, the firm will be known simply as King & Wood Mallesons or KWM.

The deal remains singular in the global legal market and continues to sharply divide peers, with some hailing its compelling strategic position in the touted Asia Pacific region while detractors focus on the lack of top tier coverage in the US and Europe and the operational challenge of integrating Western and Chinese law firms.

See ‘SJ Berwin’s high stakes tie-up with KWM dares to bring a new equation to global law‘ for analysis of the union.

Legal Business

As Brazil cools Latam heat – Garrigues moves into Colombia; SJB primes Saudi move

As Brazil cools Latam heat – Garrigues moves into Colombia; SJB primes Saudi move

With Brazil’s economy continuing to disappoint during 2013, there is increasing focus on other economies across Latin America. Moving to meet that demand Iberian giant Garrigues has announced that it is to acquire Colombian outfit Zarama y Asociados.

Garrigues has secured the signatures of Zarama y Asociados sole partners, Fernando Zarama and Camilo Zarama, along with the rest of the fee earners at the firm. The deal allows Garrigues to make a significant play in one of the fastest growing and most touted of Latin America’s economies, combining the practice with the Spanish firm’s Bogota branch.

Zarama is a tax boutique led by Fernando Zarama, former director of the Colombian Director of Taxers and National Customs Duties (DIAN) and secretary of the district tax authorities. Camilo Zarama is dual qualified in Colombian and Spanish law and spent six years at Garrigues in Madrid before joining the Colombian law firm.

This is the first stage of the 1,700-lawyer firm’s plan to set up a full service office in Colombia. The team is led by Latin America chief Javier Ybañez and his team of 20 fee earners includes specialists in corporate, finance, capital markets, public law, competition, employment and dispute resolution.

Garrigues – one of the largest law firms in Continental Europe – earlier this year abandoned its strategy of tapping into the highly coveted Latin American market through a referral network, dubbed Affinitas, in favour of opening its own offices.

Garrigues managing partner, Fernando Vives commented: ‘These outstanding signings bring the initial stage of our launch in Colombia, a country with excellent economic prospects, to a close. Our goal is to maximise our commitment to clients on the ground, as borne out by these new incorporations.’

Once plagued by crime and social problems, Colombia has seen substantial investment in infrastructure and energy as well as modernisation of its industries in recent years, thanks in part to a trade agreement with the US last year. Garrigues joins the likes of Baker & McKenzie and Norton Rose Fulbright who are active in the country.

Garrigues’ move into relatively untapped markets comes as SJ Berwin confirms that it is to open a new office in Riyadh through an alliance with a local firm, which has not yet been disclosed. A spokeswoman for SJ Berwin – which on Friday (1 November) officially integrates with Asia Pacific giant King & Wood Mallesons – said that the firm will have the office in place by Q1 next year.

Click here for our in-depth report on Latin America.

Legal Business

SJ Berwin to collect on unpaid legal fees from Qatari sheikh

SJ Berwin to collect on unpaid legal fees from Qatari sheikh

Middle-Eastern high-net-worth individuals are probably the last clients you would expect to be forced to chase for money but SJ Berwin is set to receive over £260,000 in unpaid fees from a Qatari sheikh client in a judgment revealed last week.

Reported on Bloomberg Businessweek on Friday (20 September), the decision was handed down by the High Court in April after Sheikh Saud Bin Ali Al-Thani failed to respond to a lawsuit brought by the City firm. SJ Berwin, which will merge with King & Wood Mallesons on 1 November, is owed $419,000 for its advice when Al-Thani’s assets were frozen last year after he failed to pay auction houses for bids that he won.

Al-Thani was sued for £4.1m in the UK by London auction house Bonhams and $22m in the US by rare coin specialists A.H. Baldwin & Sons, after successfully bidding for a number of rare artefacts. One of the items he successfully bid for in 2012 included a $3.25m single gold piece from the Ancient Greek city of Pantikapaion according to a lawsuit filed in Washingtonin October 2012 by A.H. Baldwin, M&M Numismatics of Washington and Dmitry Markov Coins and Medals of New York.

A cousin of the Emir of Qatar, Al-Thani was minister of culture, arts, and heritage for the gulf state since 1997 and entrusted with creating collections to fill an ambitious program of world-class museums in Qatar, according to court documents. These included a Museum of Islamic Art, a combined Qatar National Library and Natural History Museum, a Museum of Photography, and a Museum of Traditional Clothes & Textiles.

He pledged the world’s most expensive watch and other items to Sotherbys valued at around $83m to cover his debts according to court records filed at the New York Department of State last October.

Nicola Bridge, a disputes partner at legacy SJ Berwin, is named on the court documents but she and the firm declined to comment.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Linklaters boosts Asia restructuring practice while SJ Berwin makes key disputes hire

Revolving doors: Linklaters boosts Asia restructuring practice while SJ Berwin makes key disputes hire

In the second recruit to its Hong Kong office in the last couple of weeks, Linklaters has hired former Allen & Overy (A&O) partner David Kidd to lead its restructuring & insolvency (R&I) practice as the Magic Circle firm strengthens its finance and litigation teams in the region.

Kidd, who has operated under his own banner for around a year since leaving A&O in 2012, will make the move to Linklaters next month, joining former Herbert Smith Freehills Asia disputes head Gavin Lewis, whose appointment as partner to Linklaters litigation team was announced in August.

Kidd joins the firm in direct response to client demand for additional expertise in the region, according to Linklaters’ global restructuring and insolvency head Tony Bugg. Kidd will join insolvency litigator Melvin Sng, who is currently the only restructuring partner in the firm’s 160-lawyer Hong Kong office.

Bugg said: ‘Up until now we’ve done restructuring work mainly out of our litigation practice and some out of the banking practice but the insolvency practice up until now has been just Melvin. We’ve done some restructuring work but we’ve not had a dedicated partner.

‘As the leading restructuring team in Europe, we work with the advisory community in the accountancy firms and deal with all the major institutions in Asia. We’ve been talking to a number of these clients for some time and they have recognised we had a gap in our offering. David’s objective will be to look after our finance and distressed investor clients as well as the financial advisory community for anything that’s up and coming in the market.’

As head of A&O’s R&I practice – a market leader in the region according to the Legal 500 – Kidd recently advised separate creditors’ committees on restructuring the $15bn debt of Dubai World, $10.5bn debt of Nakheel, and $3bn debt of Drydocks World, which collectively represent the world’s largest restructuring of government-related entities.

Kidd has practised in Asia since 1998 having moved to Hong Kong with Cameron McKenna before joining A&O in 2001.

Meanwhile, closer to home, SJ Berwin has boosted its London disputes practice with Dentons international arbitration partner Paul Stothard, who led legacy SNR Dentons’ dispute resolution practice in the Middle East between 2008 and 2012.

This new comes just a few weeks after arbitration partner and former Salans UK international arbitration head George Burn left Dentons for US firm Vinson & Elkins.

Also in the City, longstanding head of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)’s commercial and technology group, Adam Rose, is to join Mishcon de Reya after 23 years at the firm.

Rose, who spent 12 of those years as head of the information law unit, leaves BLP after a tough few months at the firm, which has seen numerous partner exits followed by disappointing financials, with revenue dropping 5% to £233m and profit per lawyer expected to be down 6% to £56,000 at the end of the 2012/13 financial year, although the firm has remained tight-lipped on profitability.

Rose, who joined BLP in 1990 before becoming partner in 1997, was also head of vice-chair of Lex Anglo-Brasil, being actively involved with Latin American chambers of commerce in the UK. His is the latest in a string of high-profile exits from the firm, most notably head of private equity Raymond McKeeve.

Elsewhere, as one partner joins Linklaters, another leaves, this time in Portugal where former Lisbon managing partner Jorge Bleck was appointed as head of M&A and corporate finance at Portuguese firm Vieira de Almeida & Associados.

Bleck, who helped to launch Linklaters’ Lisbon office in 2002, where he was also member of its European management committee before being elected to Linklaters highest management body – its international board – has played a key role in a number of key deals, including, recently privatisations undertaken under the terms of Portugal’s 2011 €78bn bailout.

Elsewhere, DAC Beachcroft welcomes new corporate partner James Reed from Baker & McKenzie, where he was a London partner and one of the three founding partners at the firm’s Abu Dhabi office, while Irish firm McCann FitzGerald has made a rare lateral hire from a ‘Big Five’ rival, boosting its corporate offering with former Arthur Cox corporate and M&A partner Conor O’Dwyer, who will join McCanns’ all-equity partnership later this year.

Legal Business

SJ Berwin’s high stakes tie-up with KWM dares to bring a new equation to global law

David Stevenson and Alex Novarese assess SJ Berwin’s audacious Asia-Pacific tie-up and ask if the union can truly propel the firm into the global premier league

‘This isn’t about doing anything with our backs against the wall,’ says Jonathan Blake, the former senior partner of SJ Berwin, and one of the architects of his 165-partner firm’s impending tie-up with King & Wood Mallesons (KWM).

Despite some well publicised reverses in recent years for the mid-pack City player, Blake’s comment is undoubtedly true. But as to what the deal that goes live on 1 November does signify, well, opinion is sharply and starkly divided.

Legal Business

What’s in a name? SJ Berwin and King & Wood Mallesons seal union

What’s in a name? SJ Berwin and King & Wood Mallesons seal union

Forming a ground-breaking union between a leading City firm and an Asia powerhouse, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) partners confirmed this morning (31 July) that the Hong Kong-headquartered firm would merge with the UK’s SJ Berwin.

KWM partners in Australia and China voted simultaneously in favour of the merger at 1pm Hong Kong time and 3pm Sydney time in person, while SJ Berwin partners have voted electronically over the last five days. The merger will go live on 1 November, creating a firm with combined revenues over $1bn and 2,223 lawyers, including 553 partners.

KWM operates three separate partnerships in China, Hong Kong and Australia and although the Chinese partnership was given a longer time to consider the deal, all votes were in by today’s deadline.

Significantly, the move means that SJ Berwin will ultimately lose its name, becoming the European arm of the KWM Swiss Verein, the fourth partnership under the verein structure. However, Stuart Fuller, global managing partner of KWM (pictured centre right), said that for an interim period the partnership will trade under the name King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin.

The union required 75% of partners to vote in favour and although this was clearly achieved, the firm refused to break down the voting results. Fuller denied the market rumour that legacy Mallesons partners weren’t as on board with the merger as its Chinese and Hong Kong counterparts.

‘We are delighted to welcome SJ Berwin on board. This will provide our clients in the region with a first-class platform and an entrepreneurial spirit to support their international expansion,’ said Fuller.

‘As a combined firm we continue to reshape the global legal industry with our firms having quality regional strength and depth and a unique capability in Asia that allows us to connect Asia to the world and the world to Asia. We believe we do that in a way that no other firm does,’ he added.

Stephen Kon, senior partner of SJ Berwin (pictured centre left), said that his firm had enjoyed a long working history with legacy King & Wood and had previously worked together on funds work, stating that ‘the genesis of the deal goes back years’.

Financially, SJ Berwin recorded a 2% revenue increase to £184.6m, while KWM recorded a turnover of $713m in our latest Global 100 report.

The logistics of the deal mean that KWM lawyers based in London will work closely with SJ Berwin lawyers, and similarly where SJ Berwin has offices in Asia, the lawyers will use each firm’s premises. Fuller said that the firm is developing an international integration plan that would take effect from 1 November, where staff from the London office of KWN will join SJ Berwin while in Hong Kong and Shanghai, lawyers from SJ Berwin will move into the offices of KWM.

From 1 November, Stephen Kon will be deputy chairman of KWM alongside KWM Australia chair Stephen Minns (pictured left), while Fuller will remain global managing partner and Wang Junfeng will stay as chairman. Current SJ Berwin managing partner Rob Day will join the executive committee, which is made up of the managing partners of the member firms, including Wang Ling, managing partner China of KWN (pictured right) and Sue Kench, managing partner Australia at KWM.

Legal Business

A high-stakes global play – SJ Berwin to vote next week on tie-up with Asian giant King & Wood Mallesons

A high-stakes global play – SJ Berwin to vote next week on tie-up with Asian giant King & Wood Mallesons

Arguably the most ambitious deal to hit the global legal market since the 2010 tie-up between Hogan & Hartson and Lovells looks set to go ahead as it emerges that SJ Berwin is to vote next week on its proposed merger with Asia-Pacific giant King & Wood Mallesons.

Legal Business understands that SJ Berwin partners were given a week’s notice this morning of the vote, which will close at the end of the month.

This indicates that the speed at which the City law firm wants to press ahead with the decision has accelerated since it was discussed at the annual partners meeting in Marbella in June, when a decision was expected to be reached by autumn.

Indications from both inside the firm and those close to it suggest that the merger has the wide support of partners, although there has been claims that the legacy Mallesons partnership, which previously held merger discussions with Clifford Chance and Linklaters, was less enthused with the idea of a union with SJ Berwin.

The merger would make SJ Berwin the European arm of the Chinese-Australian giant and forge a global practice with revenues of around $1bn, putting the combined practice within reach of the top 25 largest law firms in the world.

It has been clear that SJ Berwin support for the deal reflects in part a desire to avoid an effective takeover by tying up with a larger US suitor. The UK law firm had engaged in long-running merger discussions with Proskauer Rose, which were finally abandoned in November 2010.

The union would see the three legacy firms maintain separate profit pools, though the firm is expected to operate under a single brand, a policy that had led to expectations that the SJ Berwin name will be dropped. All three partnerships will have to vote on the merger.

SJ Berwin’s most recent financials show the firm maintaining respectable trading, with a 2.5% increase in turnover to £184.6m for 2012/13, although profit per equity partner (PEP) were down by 11% to £565,000.

KWM is strongly focused on global expansion, having held unsuccessful merger talks with Singapore’s Wong Partnership earlier this year. The firm – the union between the top commercial law firms in China and Australia – is believed to have examined deals in the US and Canada as well.

A union between SJ Berwin and KWM has strongly divided peers, with some seeing the combination as a compelling proposition in the key Asia-Pacific region while critics highlight the huge governance and strategic challenges inherent in merging with Chinese law firms. It looks near certain that the opposing arguments now will be put to the test.

SJ Berwin declined to comment.

Click here for a comment on the tie-up.

Legal Business

Comment: SJ Berwin’s choice – to soar or crash with an Asian giant

Comment: SJ Berwin’s choice – to soar or crash with an Asian giant

If you are going to finally do a global merger, it would be fitting for one of the most distinctive City practices to hook up with the great outlier of the Global 100. That is what is on the agenda for SJ Berwin as it this summer mulls an outline deal to combine with King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), the ground-breaking union between the top commercial law firms in China and Australia.

And what an outlier KWM is. When large mergers happen in the profession, a received wisdom among clients and peers soon takes hold. But since KWM was formed in March 2012, creating a 2,100-lawyer Asia-Pacific giant, consensus has resolutely failed to emerge. For some, it is a world-beater with an unmatchable position in the most powerful economic region of the 21st century. For others, it is a desperate act by two firms who had saturated their domestic markets and faced the awkward reality that their businesses won’t easily go global. After all, Australian and People’s Republic of China law travels badly and the increasingly heavily-lawyered and fee-sensitive Asia-Pacific region is currently struggling to live up to expectations.

Perversely, there is a good deal of substance to both readings. What is agreed is that the logistic, operational and cultural challenges of putting together a slick operation like Mallesons with a 20-year old law firm are huge.

Aside from the regulatory issues blocking financial integration, the decision to wall off KWM’s Chinese IT system from the Australian practice to deal with confidentiality issues is very problematic from a client perspective. KWM remains the great unknown of the Global 100 – the firm as easy to imagine blazing a trail as crashing and burning.

So it is just as well that SJ Berwin has a reputation for individualism and willingness to take risks. The expectation is that the UK firm will make a decision by the autumn on whether to proceed with the deal – current indications are that the balance is tipping moderately in favour of it going ahead.

Much of the attraction is freedom. Having decided that it couldn’t on its own credibly switch from European to global player, SJ Berwin had (rather unhappily) pursued a US merger, notably with Proskauer Rose. Now there is little appetite for the loss of identity an effective US takeover would entail. In comparison, KWM offers the chance to join something genuinely unique and, potentially, globally potent. With KWM considering more financially-separate deals in markets including the US, Canada and Singapore, what is emerging is a new model: global elite law firm as federation. Rather than being subsumed SJ Berwin hopes to be an influential force in a new kind of global titan. The question is whether the desire for autonomy is a good enough reason to turn away from a US union. The poor record of US takeovers of City practices does indicate there is more than sentimentality to the premium SJ Berwin places on its independence. But it shouldn’t kid itself on just how daunting the challenge it would face as part of this new federation would be. Competing against firms as variously effective as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Latham & Watkins and DLA Piper will be a far greater challenge than KWM’s post-merger rhetoric has so far conceded, however distinctive the sales pitch.

Click here to access our Global 100 coverage