Legal Business

Kirkland, Paul Weiss and Slaughters lead on £3.5bn Royal Mail takeover bid

Kirkland & Ellis, Paul Weiss and Slaughter and May are advising on the proposed takeover of the Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Service (IDS), by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. 

The deal is a revised non-binding proposal from EP Corporate Group for the remaining share capital of IDS which is not already owned by EP, which at present, holds 27.6% of IDS’s issued share capital.  

The proposal values the entire issued share capital of IDS at approximately £3.5bn.  

EP is being advised by Kirkland, with a team led by corporate partners David Higgins, Dipak Bhundia and Jiri Peterka, alongside antitrust & competition partner Matthew Sinclair-Thomson. 

Paul Weiss is also advising EP, handling financing and structuring aspects of the bid, with finance duo Neel Sachdev and Stefan Arnold-Soulby, leading the firm’s team.

Slaughters corporate duo Richard Smith and Claire Jackson are advising IDS’s management.  

In an announcement to the London Stock Exchange, IDS chair Keith Williams said: ‘The Board is minded to recommend this offer price, which it considers to be fair and reflects the value of GLS’ current growth plans and the progress being made on change at Royal Mail to adapt the business to a significant fall in the demand for letters and growth in parcels.  

‘It is however regrettable that despite four years of asking, the Government has not seen fit to engage in reform of the Universal Service and thus improve our financial position and ensure that Royal Mail could provide an economically sustainable service to the British public.’

Legal Business

Market forces: Paul Weiss, Kirkland and the war for London talent

In the contest for the biggest legal story of the moment, the A&O Shearman merger may be more transformational for the firms involved, but it is fair to say it has not quite captured the imagination like Paul Weiss’s dramatic and audacious hiring spree in London.

‘The question is whether a firm can genuinely build an elite PE practice by lifting out the top guys from different shops,’ muses one US firm partner, on Paul Weiss’s bid to crack London.

Legal Business

Talk of the town: Why Kirkland/Paul Weiss underlines the value of controlling the management message

Clandestine conversations, a recruitment strategy on steroids, eye-watering salaries and internal politics galore, the Paul Weiss/Kirkland story has enough drama in it to keep the attention of even those outside the legal market.

For City partners, the interest in what’s going on has been off the scale.

Legal Business

A&O high yield head retires ahead of Shearman tie-up as firm makes first combined partner promos

Prominent high-yield partner Kevin Muzilla has retired from Allen & Overy, in the latest departure from the practice ahead of next month’s A&O Shearman mega-merger.

Ranked in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame for London high-yield, Muzilla joined A&O from Milbank as a partner in 2009, and has since headed up the firm’s leveraged finance teams, first the US and then Europe.

He has been active in the European high yield market since its inception, and has been involved in many market-defining deals, including advising the
underwriters on what was the largest Russian LBO financing in history
– the acquisition of Russian transportation group FESCO, which won the Legal Business Finance Team of the Year award in 2014.

His departure follows that of Marwa Elborai, also a Legal 500 high-yield leading individual, who left for Kirkland & Ellis last month after joining from Shearman in late 2022, while fellow high yield grandee Ward McKimm recently confirmed he would be retiring from Shearman ahead of the 1 May combination with A&O.

Another high yield specialist partner, Jeanette Cruz, also left A&O last August, according to filings on Companies House.

A&O said in a statement: ‘We would like to thank Kevin for the contribution that he has made during his time at A&O and wish him all the best for the future.’

A&O’s London high-yield bench is by no means totally depleted. Prominent partners remaining include US-qualified John Kicken, who joined in 2014 from Cravath, and Brad Weyland, who came in as a partner in 2021 from Latham & Watkins, where he was a counsel.

The magic circle firm is currently gearing up for the completion of its combination with Shearman; a deal which is of driven in large part by complementary finance expertise at both firms. Shearman’s London office includes Legal 500 high-yield leading individual Trevor Ingram and next generation partner Gordon Houseman, who made partner at the US firm in 2015 and 2021 respectively.

Elborai’s departure to Kirkland was followed last week by the news that A&O debt finance partner Vanessa Xu, who was made up in 2017, would also be joining the US firm’s London office.

However, these departures are to be offset by the first combined round of partner promotions at A&O Shearman, with 40 new partners announced in a joint press release issued today (8 April).

Of these, 32 come from A&O and eight from Shearman. This balance was ‘consistent with the relative size of the two firms and their geographic footprints’, the press release said, with A&O’s 80% share in line with its 78% share of the merged firm’s total headcount, according to data from last year’s Global 100. Last year A&O promoted 36 partners with 12 in the UK, while Shearman promoted ten, with one in the UK.

All nine of the new London partners came from A&O, with three each in banking and corporate. Thirteen have been made up to partner in the US, including five from A&O and eight from Shearman. The total also included 13 new partners in continental Europe, four in Asia, and one in the Middle East, all of which were from A&O.

Banking was the biggest overall practice area with ten promotions all from A&O. Corporate was in second with nine, including eight A&O corporate partners and one Shearman M&A partner. The new partners also included six in litigation, five in international capital markets and four in tax.

Full list of partner promotions:

Allen & Overy

New York
Lena Kiely, International Capital Markets
Puja Patel, Corporate
Derek Poon, International Capital Markets

Washington DC
Michael Sykes, Banking
Gideon Wiginton, Banking

Tim Bates, International Capital Markets
Imogen Carr, Corporate
Vanessa Morgan, Management
Rebecca Noble, Banking
Rachel O’Reilly, Banking
Kate Pumfrey, Litigation
Alex Shandro, Corporate
Jason Symington, Banking
David Weaver, Corporate

Axel de Backer, Banking

Luke Whibley, Banking

Laurie-Anne Ancenys, Corporate
Charles del Valle, Tax
Anne-Caroline Payelle, Corporate

Catharina Glugla, Corporate

Rauni Ahammer, Banking

Tim Drach, Tax
David Schmid, Litigation
Sebastian Schulz, Litigation

Baptiste Aubry, International Capital Markets
Franz Kerger, Tax
Madrid, Spain
Ishtar Sancho, Tax

Arash Koozehkanani, Litigation

Mohammad Andrew, International Capital Markets

Matthew Del Rosso, Banking
Jessica Lee, Banking
Ayesha Thapar, Corporate

Shearman & Sterling

New York
Melisa Brower, Compensation, Governance and ERISA
Jonathan Cheng, Antitrust
Joshua Ebersole, Litigation
Jai Garg, Compensation, Governance and ERISA
Christopher Glenn, Mergers & Acquisitions
Leila Siddiky, Litigation

Washington DC
Brian Hauser, Antitrust

Michelle Kwan, Emerging Growth

The promotions are broadly balanced along gender lines, with 23 men (57%) and 17 women made up.

Legal Business

Paul Weiss and Kirkland break revenue records amid London lateral shakeout

Paul Weiss has broken through the $2bn global revenue mark, posting a 10.8% hike on last year, as the firm’s bold London recruitment drive continues to make headlines.

The firm’s 178 equity partners took home an average of $6.5m in 2023, with profit per equity partner (PEP) up 14.8% from $5.73m the previous year.

Overall profit came in at $1.17bn, while revenue per lawyer was up 5.3% to $1.98m from last year’s $1.88m.

In recent months, Paul Weiss has recruited some of the City’s biggest hitters, among a total of 17 partner hires. Most have joined from Kirkland & Ellis, following the defections of debt finance superstar Neel Sachdev and big-name corporate partner Roger Johnson in August. The duo joined to lead the US firm’s London office, initiating a wave of hires aimed at building up a substantial English law practice.

Sachdev brought with him a Kirkland team including debt finance partner Kanesh Balasubramaniam and capital markets partners Matthew Merkle and Deirdre Jones, while Johnson has assembled an M&A practice with ex-Kirkland partner Andreas Philipson, as well as a tax practice featuring former Kirkland partners Timothy Lowe and Cian O’Connor.

Other names joining from Kirkland have included debt finance partner Stefan Arnold-Soulby and technology and intellectual property transactions specialist John Patten.

Paul Weiss has also targeted the Magic Circle, starting with the hire of Linklaters M&A partner Will Aitken-Davies in September. Notably, Lowe, O’Connor and Patten also had stints at Linklaters.

In December, it came as no surprise when Paul Weiss hired from Linklaters again, bringing on Nicole Kar, the former head of the Magic Circle firm’s antitrust and foreign investment practice. Adding to the Linklaters alumni, the following month the firm hired public M&A partner Dan Schuster-Woldan.

Clifford Chance has also been a target, with high-profile private equity partner Christopher Sullivan and acquisition finance partner Taner Hassan coming over in December, and just last week (18 March), junior private equity partner Oliver Marcuse followed suit.

Outside of the Magic Circle, Paul Weiss has also hired former Ropes & Gray competition partner Annie Herdman, who also served at Kirkland earlier in her career.

The recruitment drive has seen a complete changing-of-the guard for Paul Weiss in London, which has had a modest City presence without English law capability since 2001. Last May deputy London head Ramy Wahbeh and corporate partner Kaisa Kuusk both left to join Sidley, followed by the departure of London managing partner Alvaro Membrillera to Kirkland in early August, a move which was one of a number of factors which sparked the flurry of moves in the opposite direction.

On the back of the new additions, the firm announced in October it was set to move into Twitter’s former UK headquarters in Soho.

Recent London deal highlights for Paul Weiss have included advising General Atlantic on its acquisition of a majority stake in coffee shop Joe & the Juice from Valedo Partners, with Johnson and Balasubramaniam working alongside partners in the US.

The seven billion dollar law firm

Despite the departures in London, Kirkland has consolidated its position as the largest law firm in the world, with global revenue increasing by 10% last year to $7.2bn, according to The American Lawyer.

The firm’s 539 equity partners took home an average of $8m as PEP increased 5.8%, with overall profit standing at $4.3bn. RPL also increased by 7.5% from $1.9m last year, to $2.05m.

As well as highly regarded private equity partner Membrillera, the firm has made a number of other significant recent additions to its team, including debt finance partners Ian Barratt and Sinead O’Shea, who joined from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, while Herbert Smith Freehills ESG head Rebecca Perlman also recently came on board in London.

O’Shea, alongside London debt finance colleague Jerome Hoyle, were recently part of a global team advising KKR on financing for its voluntary public takeover offer to all shareholders of Encavis, a leading German wind and solar park operator.

The firm’s restructuring team has also handled a number of significant mandates of late, such as advising global engineering and construction business McDermott International on the cross-border restructuring of around $2.6bn of the group’s secured debt facilities.

In 2023 Kirkland also opened a new office in Riyadh, recruiting corporate partner Noor Al-Fawzan and capital markets Manal Al-Musharaf from Latham & Watkins and White & Case respectively, to join the 20th global office of the Chicago giant.

Legal Business

Infrastructure profile: Sara Pickersgill – ‘Pick something you love doing and do it only for as long as you love it’

Kirkland & Ellis’ Sara Pickersgill on switching track from opera singer to infrastructure lawyer and why The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe offers salient lessons for a career in the City

Why did you want to be a lawyer and why infrastructure in particular? Has it delivered what you expected?

Legal Business

The onslaught continues: Paul Weiss raids Kirkland again to hire City IP partner

Just when the market thought Paul Weiss had eased up on its hiring spree in the run-up to Christmas, the firm has hired John Patten, a partner in the London technology and intellectual property (IP) transactions practice of Kirkland & Ellis.

The move sees the Wall Street giant continue to pursue with gusto the build-out of the English law practice that has gathered momentum in short order, much to the chagrin of the management of Kirkland and Linklaters, among others.

For his part, Patten, who is joining Paul Weiss as a full equity partner, has been a partner at Kirkland since October 2021, before which he was a trainee, and subsequently an associate at Linklaters.

His practice focuses on advising clients on commercial and corporate transactions in which technology and IP play a role, as well as advising on data protection compliance with European data privacy laws.

The hire brings Paul Weiss another step closer to establishing a top-flight corporate practice to complement the formidable finance practice brought over from Kirkland in August by rainmaker Neel Sachdev.

Sachdev, along with private equity star Roger Johnson who defected from Kirkland around the same time, are co-leading Paul Weiss’ London office. The M&A offering also includes former Linklaters partner Will Aitken-Davies and former Kirkland partner Andreas Philipson.

If the strategy for Paul Weiss in London is to eventually be able to service all areas of private equity, the plan certainly seems to be coming together.

Legal Business

One in, one out: Deal star Johnson to exit Kirkland as Membrillera joins from Paul Weiss

Roger Johnson, among the first wave private equity stars to defect to Kirkland & Ellis from the Magic Circle, has left the Chicago powerhouse’s London office.

The move was quickly followed by news that Kirkland has hired the well-respected private equity partner Alvaro Membrillera from Paul Weiss in the City, where he was London managing partner.

Johnson, a leading individual for high-value private equity according to The Legal 500, was Linklaters’ influential Nordic dealmaker when his departure in 2015 for Kirkland sent shockwaves around the market.

He was believed to have joined Kirkland on a $5m package after turning down an offer from White & Case and had as a key client Swedish private equity house EQT.

Johnson made the move from Linklaters to Kirkland hot on the heels of rising star Matthew Elliott the same year. His move also prompted other corporate partners to leave Linklaters, including the high-profile David Holdsworth and Stuart Boyd.

A spokesperson for Kirkland said: ‘We do not comment on personnel matters.  But we can confirm that Roger Johnson is no longer affiliated with the firm.  We wish him well in his future endeavours.’

For his part, Membrillera acts for private equity firms and their portfolio companies on cross-border M&A and leveraged transactions across Europe.

Jon Ballis, chair of Kirkland’s executive committee said of the hire: ‘Alvaro is one of Europe’s top private equity lawyers with substantial experience leading complex cross-border transactions for sophisticated financial sponsors. We’re very pleased that the Kirkland platform continues to attract leading talent like Alvaro, particularly in Europe, which is one of our fastest growing markets.’

Legal Business

Feeling the chill? Kirkland reports just 8% revenue increase for 2022

Often the bellwether for global law firm financials, the world’s highest-grossing firm, Kirkland & Ellis, has posted muted revenue and profit growth for 2022, with turnover up 8% and partner profits up just 2% – its slowest performance year-on-year for some time. 

Kirkland made major waves in the legal sector last year, when a 25% surge in revenue saw it become the first law firm to pass the $6bn revenue mark. Its 2022 financials show a further increase, though a more modest one, with a steady rise of 8% to $6.5bn. This more modest growth was also evident in PEP, which went up 2% to $7.5m, after jumping 19% to $7.4m in 2021. Revenue per lawyer, meanwhile, declined 5%, to $1.9m.  

The firm’s increase in headcount partially explains these figures. The firm’s total number of lawyers rose by 13% in 2022, compared to 11% the previous year. The largest growth was in the number of non-equity partners, which went up 16% to 881 – the firm announced a record 193 partner promotions in October 2022 – a 28% increase on 2021. Meanwhile, the number of associates increased by 15% to 2,029, while the number of equity partners grew just 3%, to 505. These overall increases come despite two rounds of cuts to its lawyer headcount, in autumn 2022 and after performance reviews in spring 2023. 

While less impressive than its landmark 2021 results, Kirkland’s 2022 financials remain healthy at a time when a global slowdown in transactional work has seen some international firms post declines. Private equity, a core practice area for Kirkland, cooled down after a roaring 2021, though many in the market believe that a combination of significant cash reserves held by investors and more favourable economic indicators will soon produce a bounceback, and firms continue to make hires in the area, both in London and globally.  

Kirkland was also active in the London lateral hiring market over the last year, with recruiter Fox Rodney reporting 14 partner-level hires in calendar year 2022, leaving it as the most active US firm and the second-most active firm overall, behind Eversheds Sutherland. However, it was also second in London partner departures, with eight, behind Brown Rudnick’s 10.  

Legal Business

Partner promotions: Kirkland unveils largest ever class as US firms reveal 2022 cohorts

The first wave of US firms has announced their latest round of partner promotions, as Kirkland & Ellis, White & Case, Goodwin, Morgan Lewis and Covington & Burling revealed their classes of 2022.

Kirkland & Ellis has minted 193 lawyers in a new record for the expansive juggernaut, following the 151-strong round announced last year and the 145 promotions unveiled in 2020.