Legal Business

China buys: Mayer Brown and BLP land key roles on £1.3bn Walkie Talkie sale in record property deal

China buys: Mayer Brown and BLP land key roles on £1.3bn Walkie Talkie sale in record property deal

Mayer BrownBerwin Leighton Paisner(BLP) and CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang all advised on the £1.3bn purchase by Hong Kong investors LKK Health Products of London landmark skyscraper, 20 Fenchurch Street, or the ‘Walkie Talkie’.

In the UK’s largest property deal to date, Mayer Brown UK real estate head Chris Harvey told Legal Business that the transaction demonstrates further appetite from foreign investors including new entrants to the London market.

‘Asian investors have been very active over the last five years and there is clearly no lack of appetite. This is likely to continue as Asian investors see London still as being a safe haven and comparatively good value compared to their home markets, especially with the depreciation of the pound,’ he added.

LKK, a member of Hong Kong-based food company Lee Kum Kee Group was advised by a Mayer Brown team. UK real estate head Chris Harvey and global head of real estate Jeremy Clay led, with real estate partners Andrew Hepner, Caroline Humble, Anita Jones and Pat Jones, antitrust partner David Harrison and construction partner Jonathan Olson-Welsh.

Corporate and securities partners Jeremy Kenley, Connor Cahalane and Tim Nosworthy, employment and benefits partner Nick Robertson and tax partner Sandy Bhogal all also worked on the deal.

BLP advised co-seller The Canary Wharf Group. BLP’s investment management head, Antony Grossman and chairman Robert MacGregor led its team.

CMS acted for co-seller real estate investment trust Landsec, previously Land Securities, with real estate partners Victoria Henry and Barry Morris and tax partner Nick Burt leading.

The sale follows that of the ‘Cheesegrater’ building for £1.15bn earlier this year to Chinese-owned CC Land, in which BLP and Mayer Brown, alongside Herbert Smith Freehills, advised on one of the largest Chinese purchases of UK real estate.

Legal Business

Shearman and Mayer Brown retain fewer trainees than previous years’ newly-qualified solicitor intake

Shearman and Mayer Brown retain fewer trainees than previous years’ newly-qualified solicitor intake

Shearman & Sterling and Mayer Brown have recorded lower retention rates for their trainees due to qualify this autumn, from full retention last year to 87% and 73% respectively. 

Shearman will retain 87% of its London trainees due to qualify in September 2017, as 13 out of 15 trainees were offered and accepted newly qualified (NQ) positions at the firm. This represents a drop from both its 2016 and 2015 retention rates, when all 13 of its September qualifiers accepted full-time positions at the firm’s London office. This year’s figure remains above its 2014 rates, however, when the firm retained 75% of its final-year trainees to NQ positions.  

The US firm’s September NQ lawyers join the mergers and acquisitions, finance, financial Institutions advisory and financial regulatory, project development and finance, and antitrust global practices. Three members of Shearman’s NQ intake this year will take up international secondments in Brussels, Abu Dhabi and Singapore. 

Meanwhile, Mayer Brown confirmed that it will retain eight of its 11 second year trainees who joined in September 2015, a 73% retention rate. This represents a fall in comparison to its 100% retention this March, when all of the firm’s four second year trainees qualified. Two of its March trainees qualified into the firm’s banking and finance team, and one each into the dispute resolution and insurance practices respectively.

The rate increased from 2016, when Mayer Brown announced a 67% September retention rate, recruiting six of the nine group into NQ roles. The firm recorded a 100% retention rate for its March qualifiers in 2016, however, with all four kept on in the corporate and securities, construction and engineering and antitrust and competition practice groups.

The Chicago-headquartered firm confirmed that of the 11 autumn NQ solicitors this year, ten second-year trainees applied, nine were offered jobs and eight accepted.

Of those eight, two will qualify into the litigation team, one into banking and finance, and one each into the corporate & securities, real estate, pensions, employment & benefits and intellectual property practices.

Mayer Brown training principal William Glassey said the firm is ‘delighted’ that eight trainees will be staying on in permanent positions. ‘They represent our investment in the future of the firm and we look forward to watching their continuing development as they build their careers,’ he said.

Other firms to have announced their retention rates for this autumn include Burges Salmon and Blake Morgan. Burges Salmon announced in April this year that it will retain 100% of its 28 trainees, while Blake Morgan will keep eight of nine trainees who will qualify this September.



Legal Business

Mayer Brown, RPC and CMS and five other firms win roles on QBE UK panel review completion

Mayer Brown, RPC and CMS and five other firms win roles on QBE UK panel review completion

Eight firms including Mayer Brown, Clyde & Co, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, DAC Beachcroft and RPC have won places on Australian insurer QBE’s UK panel review.

Berrymans Lace Mawer, DWF and Plexus have also been selected to provide legal advice across England, Wales and Scotland.

Motor and casualty will be provided exclusively by DWF and Plexus for claims under £250,000.

Commenting on the panel review, Alan Brownlee, head of claims procurement for QBE European Operations said: ‘ We are confident that these appointments will allow us to further develop the strategic partnerships with our panel that are critical in enabling us to deliver truly excellent service, innovation, outcomes and value to our customers in the years to come.’

Earlier this month, Legal Business reported that Bond Dickinson made up to five voluntary redundancies in its Bristol office after the firm lost out on a panel spot with QBE.

In a statement, the firm said: ‘Earlier this year following on from a panel loss we had to undertake a restructuring exercise with our professional risks team which resulted in voluntary redundancies. Fortunately, all of those solicitors who have now left the firm are moving on to new roles.’

Last October, Legal Business revealed that QBE was launching a review of its UK claims panel, following the appointment of Carol Scobie as group general counsel and company secretary in January 2016.

The UK panel, which was last reviewed in 2014, is responsible for carrying out a large amount of disputes work for the insurer.

The last UK review was overseen by then European claims director Dominic Clayden, now group chief claims officer, with firms including BLM, Mayer Brown, Plexus Law and RPC making the final list.

Legal Business

‘Time to pass the baton’: Glover becomes Simpson Thacher City head as Connolly steps down at Mayer Brown

‘Time to pass the baton’: Glover becomes Simpson Thacher City head as Connolly steps down at Mayer Brown

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett‘s London managing partner Gregory Conway has stepped down from his role after 10 years of leading the practice in favour of private funds partner Jason Glover, while litigator Sally Davies has been named Sean Connolly’s replacement as senior partner at the City office of Mayer Brown.

Conway left the role in the end of March and is expected to remain a partner at the firm, while Glover will become the first non-US managing partner of the London office.

Glover, who joined Simpson Thacher in 2010 from Clifford Chance, has led Simpson Thatcher’s funds practice in Europe, for clients including Actis, Apax, BC Partners, Bridgepoint, Cinven, Coller Capital, CVC and EQT.

Conway was appointed the US firm’s London head in 2007 after former UK chief Walter Looney returned to the New York headquarters, also after 10 years at the helm.

Commenting on his appointment, Glover (pictured) said: ‘Greg felt that having done it for 10 years and having had incredible success in growing the practice, it’s probably time to pass on the baton.’

‘We’re not very big on titles and roles,’ he added.

Simpson Thacher made a rare London hire at the end of last year, taking on Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ben Spiers to boost its M&A practice. Widely tipped as a potential successor to heavyweight Adam Signy, Spiers’ practice focuses on the TMT sector. The hire of Spiers was Simpson’s first London lateral hire since the firm hired high yield star Gil Strauss from Weil, Gotshal & Manges in 2014.

Meanwhile, Mayer Brown also announced today (19 May) that litigation partner Sally Davies has been appointed London senior partner for a five-year term beginning on 1 July. She succeeds Sean Connolly, who steps down after 10 years in the role.

Davies joined Mayer Brown as a trainee in 1992 and was made a partner in 2001. In addition to her appointment as senior partner, Davies was recently elected to serve on the firm’s global partnership board. Connolly will continue as a partner in the firm’s litigation practice, where he advises on multi-jurisdictional disputes.

Legal Business

‘Enduring strength’: HSF, BLP and Mayer Brown advise as £1bn offer made for the Cheesegrater

‘Enduring strength’: HSF, BLP and Mayer Brown advise as £1bn offer made for the Cheesegrater

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Mayer Brown are leading as Chinese Investment Group CC Land is in advanced talks to buy one of London’s landmark buildings, the Leadenhall building (known as the Cheesegrater) for over £1bn.

If completed, the deal will be one of the largest Chinese purchases of UK real estate.

The HSF team is advising joint owner Oxford Properties with a team led by real estate partner Richard Forsdyke.

Mayer Brown is acting for the other 50% owner, British Land, through real estate partners Jeremy Clay, Caroline Humble and corporate partner Richard Page.

BLP team is advising the potential buyer, CC Land, with a team led by head of real estate Chris de Pury.

Forsdyke said: ‘We are delighted to have helped Oxford over the last five years on its participation in this venture. This sale is important and shows the enduring strength of the central London business district real estate.’

HSF also advised Oxford Properties in 2011, when the £340m development of the Cheesegrater started, while SJ Berwin advised British Land.

In 2015, British Land unveiled its first panel, listing firms including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Addleshaw Goddard, HSF, Jones Day, King & Wood Mallesons, Mayer Brown and Simmons & Simmons as advisers. Last month, it added also Hogan Lovells to its roster of firms.

Legal Business

LLP latest: Camerons unveils £11m profits dip ahead of merger while Mayer Brown sees City member profits fall

LLP latest: Camerons unveils £11m profits dip ahead of merger while Mayer Brown sees City member profits fall

CMS Cameron McKenna has seen turnover increase but profitability fall for its offices under the UK LLP, according to the firm’s latest filings with Companies House.

The accounts show turnover for the 2015/16 financial year was up to £267.3m, an increase of around 2% on the £262.9m posted the previous year. While UK turnover remained steady at £219m, turnover from the LLP’s international offices increased 11% from £40m to £44.5m.

Profitability, however, took a hit with profits available for distribution to members falling 18% from £61.6m in 2014/15 to £50.3m this year. The firm’s highest paid member was distributed around 9% more, £860,000 compared to £788,000 the year before.

In a statement the firm said: ‘This reported fall in profits was due to an exceptional item. We made a decision last year for a small amount of restructuring within our partnership that, under accounting conventions, required the accelerated recognition of costs that would have otherwise fallen in the next 3 years. Overall, our balance sheet remains healthy and our strong cash position has allowed us to repay surplus capital held in the business and end the year in a strong position.’

These LLP accounts report the offices of Camerons under the UK group, which includes its Cameron McKenna’s UK offices, along with branches in Budapest, Prague, Kyiv, Warsaw, Bucharest, Sofia, Muscat, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro and Dubai. They also account for its share of joint ventures with the CMS grouping of ten European firms in Moscow and Istanbul.

Internationally, the CMS group reported more than €1bn in turnover last year, which the firm stated represented a 8% increase on the previous year.

The falling profitability comes ahead of the firm’s merger with Nabarro and Olswang, set to go live on 1 May, which is expected to give Camerons revenues of around £450m in the UK alone.

Olswang’s latest LLPs revealed the firm cut its bank loan revolving credit facility from £14m to £13m this year. The accounts also showed profit allocated to the highest paid member at the firm for 2016 was £759,000.

Merger partner Nabarro recently reported it had moved to cut its pension deficit ahead of the combination in its LLP filings. The firm more than halved its pension liability from £32m to £12.2m – injecting £4.4m in the last financial year to cut the deficit more quickly.

Meanwhile, turnover for Mayer Brown’s UK LLP dropped by 3% in 2016 to £105m, down from £109m the year previous, while profit per member fell sharply.

The US firm’s highest paid UK LLP member received £1.5m, up from £1.4m in 2015. Average profit per member decreased by 17% to £426,745 for 2016, falling from £515,464.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Akin Gump strengthens trade practice in London, while Mayer Brown expands pensions

Revolving doors: Akin Gump strengthens trade practice in London, while Mayer Brown expands pensions

In a busier week for laterals, US firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Mayer Brown strengthened their London benches, while several UK firms including Shepherd and Wedderburn, Clyde & Co and Ince & Co target growth in Scotland, China and Singapore, respectively.

Akin Gump announced Jasper Helder as the latest addition to its City office. Specialising in international trade and corporate compliance matters, he joins Akin Gump from Baker & McKenzie where he headed their EUMEA trade and commerce practice. He has particular experience in Russia and the Middle East advising on EU and UN sanctions compliance for Iran, Russia and Syria.

Also in London, Mayer Brown hired Jay Doraisamy from Dentons as a partner in the pensions practice. Before Dentons, she was the head of London pensions at Eversheds and her 22 years’ experience includes funding, benefit redesign projects, scheme closures and amendments, and defined benefit/contribution schemes across sectors such as energy, banking, transport, chemicals, manufacturing and water.

Meanwhile, UK firm Shepherd and Wedderburn grew in Scotland this week through acquiring north-east boutique firm The Commercial Law Practice (CLP) and with it partners Mike Anderson and Keir Willox who will join Shepherd and Wedderburn in Aberdeen, and Ma’aruf Razzak who will become a director. The firm re-entered the Aberdeen market earlier this year hiring John Rutherford, previously at Pinsent Masons and former managing partner of Mackinnons Charles Scott.

Also expanding internationally, Clyde & Co’s joint law venture (JLV) in China, Clyde & Co Westlink, appointed new corporate and M&A partner Yang Liu from HaoLiWen Partners. Alongside corporate transactions, Liu also has experience in shipping, international trade and logistics.

Clyde & Co Shanghai partner Michael Cripps, said: ‘Clyde & Co is one of the very few international law firms that have been approved by the Ministry of Justice to establish a formal joint law venture in China, and with the arrival of Yang I believe we can further leverage on his expertise to boost our corporate strength in the market.’

Also in Asia, UK law firm Ince & Co this week added Nicholas Lum to its benches, to lead the firm’s China practice in Singapore. He joins the team as a disputes partner in shipping and international trade from Oon & Bazul.

Recognised by The Legal 500, he focuses on international trade and commodities, shipping and shipbuilding and general commercial disputes. His appointment follows Ince’s recent expansion, with a total of 22 new partners globally in the last 18 months, including 12 new hires.

Legal Business

US partner promotions: Mayer Brown promotes two in the City while McDermott adds one

US partner promotions: Mayer Brown promotes two in the City while McDermott adds one

Mayer Brown has made up another two partners in the City, the same number as last year, while McDermott Will & Emery has promoted one in London.

Litigation lawyer Jonathan Stone and IP lawyer Oliver Yaros will join Mayer Brown’s partnership in January. Stone’s practice covers all aspects of construction and engineering law and has a focus on advising insurers and professionals in the defence of professional indemnity claims.

Yaros will bring his experience acting on global financial industry utility projects, technology and business process outsourcing projects and IT systems procurement transactions to the partnership.

London promotions made up 10% of Mayer Brown’s round of 21, down from last year’s 27 which the firm said was the biggest intake since 2012. This year the bulk of promotions were made in the US where 17 made partner, while Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong both received one promotion.

After missing out last year, McDermott’s City practice has received one new partner. Employment lawyer Paul McGrath will become partner as part of the firm’s 34 strong round. Global promotions were up on last year’s 30 with 47% of those promoted women.

McDermott promoted 27 in the US, 79% of its total promotions. Four were made up to partner in Shanghai with Dusseldorf and Paris both receiving one.

The new partners at both firms will be made up on January 1.

Other US firms which have recently released their partner promotions include White & Case which bolstered its partnership by 40 this year, an increase of 23% on last year’s numbers with eight made up in the City. Kirkland & Ellis also announced it had made six up to partner in London in an 81 global partner promotion round. Latham & Watkins added two to its City office in a global round of 27 while based Ropes & Gray has promoted two in London as partner of its modest promotion round of 11.

London partner promotions

Mayer Brown

Oliver Yaros, intellectual property, London

Jonathan Stone, litigation & dispute resolution, London

McDermott Will & Emery

Paul McGrath, labour, employment & benefits, London


Legal Business

Revolving doors: Global 100 firms invest in Europe as Baker & McKenzie, Mayer Brown and Bird & Bird make hires

Revolving doors: Global 100 firms invest in Europe as Baker & McKenzie, Mayer Brown and Bird & Bird make hires

UK and US firms have been busy investing in Europe this week, with Baker & McKenzie, Mayer Brown and Bird & Bird all adding to offices in Berlin, Frankfurt and Brussels.

Baker & McKenzie has added two partners in Germany to expand its energy and M&A practices. Both Thomas Dörmer and Tim Heitling are to join from Taylor Wessing (TW) at the beginning of next month. The pair join with two more TW lawyers, Claire Polte and Daniel Neudecker. Both partners recently advised energy company Enovos International and Swiss Life Asset Managers in the bidding war for Thyssengas as well as engineering firm Schuler AG on the acquisition of metals company AWEBA Group.

Meanwhile, Mayer Brown has hired Hunton & Williams partner Geneviève Michaux for its Brussels office. Michaux is a Belgian and French qualified lawyer whose practice focuses on regulatory matters concerning drugs, biologics, medical devices, cosmetics and food across Europe. Mayer Brown government and trade co-leader Duane Layton said Michaux’s skills complement and replicate Mayer Brown’s life sciences practice in the US.

Bird & Bird has also looked to build its practice in Europe, with the addition of Niels Lutzhöft from Gleiss Lutz to join the tech firm’s global commercial practice group. Lutzhöft, who joins Bird & Bird’s Frankfurt office, specialises in commercial regulatory, competition and copyright law.

The firm’s German head Sven-Erik Heun said Lutzhöft was a great fit for the firm’s focus on cross-practice advice. He added: ‘He is very active in the areas of commercial, regulatory and IP law, which provides an excellent basis for advising companies being transformed by technology and the knowledge economy, or facing digital transformation.’

Legal Business

‘A local foothold’: Mayer Brown opens doors in Dubai

‘A local foothold’: Mayer Brown opens doors in Dubai

Mayer Brown has opened the doors to its Dubai Office, six months after appointing two Baker & McKenzie partners to lead the outpost.

Charles Hallab and Tahan Thraya were hired to lead the office in December, joining from Baker & McKenzie. Hallab will take on the role of chair of the firm’s Middle East practice and will be a leader of the international joint venture and strategic alliance practice for the firm, while Thraya has been appointed as the firm’s head of the Middle East corporate and commercial team.

Hallab will bring his experience as Baker & McKenzie’s former chair of corporate and securities practice in Washington DC to the role, with Thraya, the former head of the firm’s United Arab Emirates (UAE) corporate and commercial practice and founding partner of its Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha offices. Both have been based in the firm’s Washington DC offices since joining Mayer Brown.

Co-leaders of Mayer Brown’s Middle East Dispute and International Arbitration practice London based Raid Abu-Manneh and Dany Khayat, who is a partner in the Paris office, will also spend significant time in the Dubai office, which is in the Index Tower in the Dubai International Financial Centre.

Thraya said the firm is committed to meeting client needs in the Middle East. ‘Our Dubai office is uniquely focused on the region and the many issues and opportunities it presents. This new office will strengthen the firm’s ability to provide local counsel to multinational companies and other key clients.’

Hallab added: ‘Mayer Brown’s Dubai office establishes a local foothold for our broader Middle East practice, enhancing the firm’s ability to provide on-the-ground legal counsel to clients across a broad spectrum of industries and geographies on various matters inbound to and outbound from the Middle East, as well as on a wide range of intraregional matters.’