Legal Business

NRF loses ten-lawyer London insurance litigation team to Kennedys as BCLP hires energy partners from Watson Farley

NRF loses ten-lawyer London insurance litigation team to Kennedys as BCLP hires energy partners from Watson Farley

UK top 30 insurance and shipping specialist Kennedys has raided Norton Rose Fulbright’s (NRF) London insurance bench, recruiting two partners and another eight-lawyers.

Meanwhile, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) hired two energy partners from Watson Farley & Williams and RPC hired a chief operating officer (COO) from Clifford Chance (CC).

In the latest loss for NRF, insurance and marine disputes partners Patrick Foss and Chris Zavos have quit the firm for Kennedys after eight years, alongside counsel Jo Ward, who will make partner in the move.

Foss and Zavos both joined NRF from Barlow Lyde & Gilbert when their former firm merged with Clyde & Co in 2011. Their practice focuses on disputes work in marine, energy, terrorism, trade credit and political risk.

Kennedy’s marine head Christopher Dunn told Legal Business: ‘They are a fantastic team. We have been talking to them for some time, they are close friends of ours and they are market leaders in their sector of marine and energy. It represents a good way for us to increase our market share globally.’

He anticipated further growth in the firm’s 52-lawyer global marine team, with a particular focus on America. The firm recently established associations with firms in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama, expanding its regional footprint to 11 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A spokesperson for NRF said: ‘We have great strength in depth with over 30 partners in our London disputes team, a total of 60 partners across EMEA and 1200 lawyers in our global disputes group. We are committed to retaining a strong profile in London for our insurance and shipping clients across the global network.’

The move is the latest step in Kennedys’ expansion of its marine offering. In 2016 the firm merged with marine and shipping boutique Waltons & Morse and last year it hired a team from Mayer Brown including insurance and reinsurance head David Chadwick.

The firm has also been focused on expanding outside of London over the last two years. In autumn 2017 it launched in Paris and Bangkok after opening in Melbourne that summer.

Last year it opened an innovation back office in India, called Kennedys Kognitive Computing. The firm now counts 37 offices worldwide.

For NRF, this is the latest in a series of losses in London and abroad. In July last year it lost one of its most senior London partners as veteran litigator Sam Eastwood quit after three decades to join Mayer Brown.

In January this year it pulled out of Venezuela, its 26-lawyer local practice joining Dentons, while last year it closed in Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi and lost its Tokyo corporate team to Paul Hastings.

Meanwhile, BCLP announced the hire of energy partners John Conlin and Rod Chooramun from Watson Farley. Also a former NRF partner, oil and gas specialist Conlin joined Watson Farley in January 2016 from Andrews Kurth, while energy and infrastructure lawyer Chooramun was promoted to partner in 2017.

In a Monday full of announcements, RPC hired CC general manager Alistair Johnson as its new COO. A member of CC’s management team, Johnson was responsible for operational delivery in the UK for five years. Prior to that he was CC’s IT director for London and the Middle East. He is set to join RPC next September as a board member.

Legal Business

Dentons risks Venezuelan instability to secure Norton Rose Caracas business

Dentons risks Venezuelan instability to secure Norton Rose Caracas business

Dentons has acquired Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF)’s 26-lawyer Caracas office, coinciding with Venezuela’s acute economic and political crisis.

As part of the acquisition, Dentons hired eight partners with a sector focus on energy and natural resources, as well as employment. Currently led by labour partner Juan Carlos Pró-Rísquez, who became NRF managing partner in the country last year, the office is set to become Despacho de Abogados miembros de Dentons, after a transition period that sees it associated with Dentons’ Colombian business in Bogotá.

Legal Business

Globe-trotting Dentons primed to secure Norton Rose’s Venezuela business

Globe-trotting Dentons primed to secure Norton Rose’s Venezuela business

Expansive global giant Dentons is positioned for another regional merger, with Norton Rose Fulbright’s (NRF) 26-lawyer strong Venezuelan practice the new addition, as Dentons moves to bolster its offering in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Caracas-based practice is spearheaded by labour partner Juan Carlos Pró-Rísquez, who became managing partner for NRF in Venezuela in 2018. Pró-Rísquez will now lead the office under the name of Despacho de Abogados miembros de Dentons. Currently, the office is in a transitional structure, which sees it associated with Dentons’ Colombian business in Bogotá. However, it will be fully integrated into the firm’s verein-backed structure in the coming weeks subject to a vote from the Dentons partnership.

‘This first started after we recruited several Norton Rose lawyers in Bogotá,’ Jorge Alers, Dentons’ chief executive for Latin America and the Caribbean, told Legal Business. ‘They integrated very well with the firm so we knew how much of a good fit their former colleagues in Caracas would be.’

The Caracas firm counts eight partners with a business focused on energy and natural resource as well as employment. Venezuela, meanwhile, remains one of the world’s largest oil producers, however, the country is currently looking to diversify its economy in a bid to become less reliant upon global commodity cycles.

For Dentons, the tie-up continues its ultra-expansive strategy, having opened in Nicaragua and El Salvador last year, as well as combining with Delany Law and Dinner Martin in the Caribbean. In Latin America, meanwhile, the 8,700-lawyer firm allied with Brazil’s Vella Pugliese Buosi Guidoni, as well as merging with Gallo Barrios Pickmann in Peru.

NRF, in contrast, has more conservative with its global footprint. The firm closed branches in Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi last year while Paul Hastings recruited its Japanese corporate team.

The firm released a statement from chief executive Peter Martyr: ‘Market conditions in Venezuela have been challenging for some time. Therefore, we have reached a mutual agreement with our Caracas partners that Norton Rose Fulbright will no longer maintain a local market presence in Venezuela.’

Alers at Dentons unsurprisingly struck a different note, stressing his firm’s expansion plans in the Latin American and Caribbean region: ‘It not only our strategy to grow globally but also grow continually in Latin America and the Caribbean, where we already have the most legal coverage in the region. This is just another step in our effort to cover the entire jurisdiction.’

Legal Business

Deal round-up: Travers advises Shazam on Apple buyout as Freshfields and Norton Rose strike gold on $18bn mining merger

Deal round-up: Travers advises Shazam on Apple buyout as Freshfields and Norton Rose strike gold on $18bn mining merger

In the latest flurry of deals, Travers Smith has represented popular mobile app Shazam on its buyout by tech giant Apple, while a raft of international firms have benefitted from recent transactional activity.

Shazam, which was founded in 2002, is a song recognition app which can identify what music is playing via a phone’s inbuilt microphone. The deal for Shazam, reportedly worth $400m, will see Apple offer the app on an ad-free basis for all users.

The buyout was initially delayed by a European Commission (EC) probe, amid fears it could give Apple Music a competitive advantage over rival streaming apps such as Spotify and Deezer, but the EC gave the takeover the green light earlier this month.

Shazam was advised by Travers Smith, with a team spearheaded by corporate finance partner Andrew Gillen. Gillen was supported by partners Jessica Kemp and Madeleine Gowlett, who offered specialist tax advice, while commercial advice was given by partner Louisa Chambers.

Apple was represented by Cooley, while Hogan Lovells also featured on the deal, advising Shazam on US aspects of the transaction.

Elsewhere, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Norton Rose Fulbright landed key roles as goldmining giants Randgold and Barrick of Canada announced an $18bn combination.

The merger is expected to create the largest gold company in the world in terms of tier one gold assets, and is predicted to have a market capitalisation of $18.3bn.

Freshfields is one of the firms advising Barrick on the merger. Leading for the Magic Circle firm are corporate partners Piers Prichard Jones and Stephen Hewes. US outfits Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg and Cravath, Swaine & Moore also advised Barrick, alongside offshore firm Carey Olsen.

Norton Rose was on hand to support the US-based Randgold with a transatlantic team. Corporate partners Jon Perry and Nick Adams led for the firm out of London, while New York-based securities partner Steven Suzzan provided advice on the US side. Canadian firm Stikeman Elliot and offshore outfit Ogier also represented Randgold.

Finally, White & Case has advised the creditors of pharmaceuticals company Concordia on its $3.7bn recapitalisation.

The restructuring came after Concordia faced a number of issues, including regulatory scrutiny of its past business practices and a large amount of debt accrued from its previous acquisitions. As a result of the restructuring, Concordia’s debt has reduced from around $3.7bn to $1.4bn. A Carey Olsen team, led by partner Kate Andrews, advised the ad-hoc group of secured creditors on Jersey law aspects of the deal.

Christian Pilkington, one of White & Case’s lead restructuring partners on the mandate, commented: ‘This deal illustrates our ability to combine our global restructuring, finance and regulatory capabilities with our deep knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry.’

Legal Business

CMS, Fieldfisher and NRF among firms awarded spots on social housing regulator’s panel amid regime shake-up

CMS, Fieldfisher and NRF among firms awarded spots on social housing regulator’s panel amid regime shake-up

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) and Fieldfisher have been appointed to the Regulator of Social Housing’s (RSH) inaugural legal panel.

Trowers & Hamlins, Devonshires and Mills & Reeve will also be in the roster of firms advising the government body, announced today (18 May), for a four-year term.

The RSH started life in January, when the Homes and Communities Agency branched into a development and regulatory entity as the government tried to expedite the delivery of affordable housing.

The new entity, Homes England, will work on the delivery side, while the RSH will assist on commercial law and regulation, as well as a new special administration regime for social housing providers.

Under the new regime, if a registered provider is insolvent the administrator will try to keep its assets for use in the social housing sector.

Fieldfisher and Devonshires will advise specifically on regulatory, corporate and financial law, while CMS and NRF will work on insolvency and special administration law, with the other firms on the panel advising on both.

‘As a firm, we have extensive experience of advising on special administrations and in the social housing sector, and we look forward to deploying this in helping RSH,’ said CMS’ Glen Flannery, member of Restructuring Team of the Year at the latest Legal Business Awards. The firm’s real estate partner Candice Blackwood will also be part of the team advising the RSH.

This is the second panel appointment this week for Fieldfisher, which was among a group of seven firms appointed by Co-Op on Monday (14 May) to work alongside primary advised Allen & Overy.

Legal Business

NRF partner promotions delayed as firm moves to US financial reporting ‘to align with the global business’

NRF partner promotions delayed as firm moves to US financial reporting ‘to align with the global business’

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) is shifting its financial reporting to the US calendar year-end in a symbolic move towards a more integrated business.

The move, which the firm describes as a bid to align the European operations with the global business, also means NRF will not be announcing Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) partner promotions until December this year.

NRF was typically cagey on the details of the financial shift, but it is a significant move for the verein firm operating as five financially separate businesses across the world. Its lack of integration has caused difficulties in the past.

For instance, the UK-based legacy Norton Rose partnership was given limited voting rights on the merger with New York firm Chadbourne & Parke, which went live in summer last year.

Speaking to Legal Business, a spokesperson for NRF denied any connection between that tie-up and the firm’s plans to shift its financial year, saying the latter decision was taken prior to the Chadbourne merger.

NRF will be publishing its latest financials over the next few weeks, the spokesperson added. Its most recent LLP accounts showed a 7.5% drop in the firm’s Eurasian profits to £115.8m amid a 3% rise in turnover from £444.3m to £457.9m.

Meanwhile, the firm’s next promotion round is expected for December, meaning there will be a 20-month gap since its latest round in April last year when the firm promoted 45 across its global network.

Questions remain as to whether the firm will follow this move with the financial integration of its profit pools, currently spread across five businesses across the world. NRF did not comment on this point.

Legal Business

After an expansive 2017, Norton Rose Fulbright starts year with Asia pullback

After an expansive 2017, Norton Rose Fulbright starts year with Asia pullback

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) made headlines in 2017 by pulling off mergers in the US and Australia, but 2018 has started with the firm retrenching internationally, closing in Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi while Paul Hastings raided its Japanese corporate team.

NRF Tokyo head of corporate, M&A and securities Eiji Kobayashi joined Paul Hastings’ Japanese base in mid-January, with a four-person team, including two associates, one paralegal and one secretary, to follow him a few weeks later.

Legal Business

LLP latest: profits fall at Norton Rose Fulbright as Dentons’ top earner sees pay cut

LLP latest: profits fall at Norton Rose Fulbright as Dentons’ top earner sees pay cut

Operating profits at Norton Rose Fulbright’s (NRF) Eurasian business fell 7.5% to £115.8m in the year to 30 April 2017, the firm’s latest LLP accounts have revealed.

The fall in profits for this segment of the business, which includes the legacy Norton Rose operations, came despite a 3% rise in turnover from £444.3m to £457.9m.

It resulted in the firm’s top-earner bringing home £1.4m, 12% less than the year before despite the average number of members remaining essentially flat at 241 compared to 242 at the end of April 2016.

The firm also cut remuneration for management by 13% from £5.94m to £5.16m but spent more on its staff. The number of fee earners was reduced from 1,094 to 1,085 and business services staff from 1,129 to 1,118. But salaries, social security payments and pensions cost the firm 8% more at £213.2m compared to £197.2m in 2015/16.

Fee income grew 3% to £252.4m in the UK and 5% to £118.2m in the rest of Europe, but fell from £78.2m to £77.8m in the rest of the world.

NRF is in the middle of its 2020 strategy, including the implementation of a practice management system from SAP and moves to re-engineer its business for global clients.

Speaking to Legal Business in the summer, global chief executive Peter Martyr – who started his sixth term last month – said the firm was in a ‘transitional phase, a time of transformation and structural changes’.

He added: ‘A lot of what we are doing has been designed to drive efficiency and flexibility. It will take about five years for the strategy to be fully implemented. We are now in year two.’

Meanwhile, Dentons’ UKMEA business also published its LLP accounts, showing the firm’s top earner brought home 15% less than last year even though the firm’s turnover and profits increased slightly.

The highest-earning member’s remuneration was down from £1.3m to £1.1m as the firm grew both the number of its members – from 124 to 129 – and fee-earners – from 435 to 484.

The firm had a total of 929 staff at the end of the financial year, costing it £84.9m, 8% more than last year.

Dentons also slashed the remuneration for its top management team 9% from £4.3m to £3.9m.

These numbers do not include the combination with Scotland’s Maclay Murray & Spens, which went live at the end of October last year and brought the firm’s UK headcount to 200 partners and 600 other lawyers.

Turnover at the firm in 2016/17 was broadly flat at £170.3m compared to £169.2 the year before, while operating profit grew from £47.2m to £48.2m.

Financial results published in the summer showed a 9% fall in the LLP’s profit per equity partner to £481,000. UK and Middle East chief executive Jeremy Cohen admitted at the time the firm would have ‘preferred to have a better profitability’ and pointed to a ‘fairly flat year’ in the UK market.

Both NRF and Dentons had less than half the cash at the end of April 2017 compared to the year before. The former had £25m in the bank and in hand compared to £56.3m the year before, the latter £7m compared to £15m.

Legal Business

Deal Watch: Simpson, CC and NRF line up as business data firms generates big ticket double

Deal Watch: Simpson, CC and NRF line up as business data firms generates big ticket double

As January draws to a close the deal market continues its robust run, with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett leading the advisers on Blackstone’s headline-grabbing Thomson Reuters carve-out while City leaders deploy for Informa’s £3.9bn takeover of UBM.

Simpson, Dechert and Norton Rose Fulbright (NFR) won the lead mandates on a Blackstone-led bid to acquire the data analytics business of Thomson Reuters in a deal valued at $20bn. The bid, confirmed on Tuesday (30 January), is one of the largest ever private equity-backed acquisitions and Blackstone’s largest outside the real estate sector.

Simpson is advising the consortium headed by long-standing client Blackstone, which also includes Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC and Canadian pension fund CPPIB. A New York-based Simpson team includes partners Wilson Neely, Elizabeth Cooper and Mike Wolfson (M&A) and Lori Lesser (IP).

Thomson Reuters, advised by Torys and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, is selling a 55% majority stake in its financial and risk (F&R) business in return for gross proceeds of $17bn. The company will keep a 45% stake in the business, as well as full ownership of its legal, tax & accounting and Reuters news operations. As part of the deal, Reuters will supply news to the F&R business for $325m-a-year under a 30-year contract.

NRF, meanwhile, advised Thomson Reuters Founder Share Company, fielding a team that included New York corporate partner David Barrett and London-based IP head Mike Knapper. The London team included corporate partner Jon Perry as well as senior lawyers Clementine Hogarth and Jon Perry. Dechert is advising GIC out of New York with a team led by corporate partners Mark Thierfelder and Jonathan Kim.

The business publishing sector in January generated another multi-billion pound deal with Informa finalising its recommended cash and share offer on its £3.9bn acquisition of listed events business UBM. CC acted for Informa, fielding a team under partners Katherine Moir and Steven Fox, opposite Linklaters duo Michel Honan and Iain Fenn for UBM. CC has acted for Informa on numerous occasions previously, including on its proposed $1.5bn acquisition of Penton Business Media in 2016.

The takeover is designed to create an events business with revenues of £2.6bn a year. Ashurst is advising Centerview Partners, the financial adviser to Informa, with a team led by corporate partner Tom Mercer and banking partner Tim Rennie. UBM is currently the largest dedicated B2B events business in the world, owning and operating more than 300 exhibitions and events.

Despite unease about Brexit, 2018 has gotten off to a strong start for deal counsel, with a string of marquee bids already announced as a depressed sterling and robust economies in the US and the Eurozone underpin M&A activity.

Legal Business

Bumpy start to 2018 for Norton Rose Fulbright as Japan corporate head departs and two offices close

Bumpy start to 2018 for Norton Rose Fulbright as Japan corporate head departs and two offices close

While 2017 saw Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) further expand its global footprint through two mergers in the US and Australia, the new year has begun with the firm losing out internationally with Paul Hastings recruiting its Japan head of corporate and NRF closing its Abu Dhabi and Kazakhstan offices.

Paul Hastings confirmed Eiji Kobayashi has joined its Tokyo office today (12 January), with his four-person team, including two associates, expected to join him in the coming weeks.

Kobayashi joined NRF at the beginning of 2015 from Japan’s largest firm, 500-lawyer Nishimura & Asahi, where he co-lead the cross-border transactions group. He went on to head up NRF’s corporate, M&A and securities operations in the country. A US-qualified lawyer, he previously worked in the Houston and Tokyo offices of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. He typically advises Japanese corporates on outbound investment and M&A deals.

He said Paul Hastings’ ‘strong cross-border track record and local expertise in Asia’ attracted him to the firm: ‘I am keen to help the firm’s clients effectively navigate compliance and investigations challenges and to seize opportunities from cross-border mergers and acquisitions.’

Including the new hires, Paul Hastings will have 13 lawyers including four partners in the Japanese capital, all in corporate save for one partner and one associate in litigation.

NRF also closed its Kazakshtan base at the beginning of the year after Almaty-based partner Yerzhan Kumarov established a domestic shop, KM & Partners.

‘We mutually agreed that a full-service offering was no longer required by Norton Rose Fulbright in Kazakhstan,’ said Martin Scott, managing partner of Europe, Middle East and Asia. A spokesperson for the firm added the firm will maintain an unspecified ‘working relationship’ with Kumarov.

NRF also announced this week that it had shut its Abu Dhabi office in December last year, moving partner Paul Mansouri and the other two lawyers based there to Dubai. One of the business services staff was also moved to Dubai, while two other support staff were made redundant.

‘In the past few years, the majority of our activity has increasingly regionalised,’ according to head of Middle East Deirdre Walker. ‘As a result it makes better business sense to consolidate our resources in Dubai. Our clients want simplified access to our firm across the Middle East. This development addresses their needs allowing us to support them with their opportunities across the region.’

NRF’s move to pare back its Middle East operations has been a relatively common trend among global law firms that have grown like weeds internationally, creating a barrage of offices that very often do not live up to their initial promise. Major law firms have reacted to losses in the Middle East after overinvesting during the oil boom in the 2000s, with Abu Dhabi in particular a primary target. In 2015 and 2016, Simmons & Simmons, Latham & Watkins, Vinson & Elkins and Herbert Smith Freehills closed their doors to focus on Dubai, just 100km away.

These developments follow an expansive year for NRF, in which completed two mergers – with Manhattan-headquartered Chadbourne & Parke  and Australia’s Henry Davis York . These were not without fallout though, with four infrastructure and energy partners leaving in the summer to establish Pinsent Masons’ Perth office .