Legal Business

Orrick takes Olswang Paris head ahead of three way merger

Orrick takes Olswang Paris head ahead of three way merger

Olswang‘s Paris head Guillaume Kessler has left the soon-to-be-merged firm in favour of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

The exit comes as Olswang prepares for its merger with CMS Cameron McKenna and Nabarro. The Paris office relocated to temporary premises after its lease expired, and is not expected to join the three way merger.

Kessler advises on corporate finance transactions, including public and private domestic and cross-border M&A, takeovers, take privates, private equity, restructurings and international joint ventures. He joined Olswang in 2011 from Brandford-Griffith & Associés where he was made up to partner in 2006. He had previously worked at both Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Clifford Chance.

Orrick’s head of M&A and private equity in France Saam Golshani said: ‘We are delighted to continue to grow our French corporate practice with a practitioner of Guillaume’s calibre. He is a recognised player in the French market, with particularly deep ties to the technology sector and a go-to source for the private equity market.’

CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang partners approved the merger in October, with the three firms taking on the CMS brand – giving Camerons over 1,000 partners and revenues of around £450m in the UK. The three firms will move in together into CMS UK’s current Cannon Place headquarters, conditional on the merger completing on 1 May 2017.

In November Legal Business reported Olswang lost experienced Paris corporate partner Christophe Gaschin who joined Groupe Bertrand as general counsel. Nabarro lost its seat in the five firm Broadlaw Group as a consequence of its merger plans with CMS and Olswang.

Legal Business

Olswang’s patent prosecution co-head exits amid merger talks


Olswang has lost the co-chair of its patent prosecution group to Dentons as the TMT firm prepares its mega merger with CMS Cameron McKenna and Nabarro.

Described by the Legal 500 as ‘one of the pre-eminent patent prosecution attorneys in the EU’, Justin Hill specialises in advising on the preparation and prosecution of UK, European and international patent applications, designs, trademarks, know-how and copyright issues.

He also founded Olswang’s EquIP programme, providing legal advice to UK scale-ups and entrepreneurs with a focus on IP, corporate and commercial advice.

Hill will join Dentons as its head of its European patent prosecution and opposition practices.

Dentons’ UK managing partner Brandon Ransley said: ‘Justin brings heavyweight patent filing experience to the UK team, adding to the patent litigation experience of Campbell Forsyth who joined the firm earlier this year. Clients from the US and Asia increasingly require patent advice in Europe, and Justin’s arrival enhances our capacity to meet this demand, while also representing a further step towards achieving our objective of building a leading global patent capability.’

In August Dentons picked up a four-partner team from Irwin Mitchell. London real estate head Rob Thompson joined Dentons with partners Lewis Myers, Rupert Dowdell and head of corporate real estate Jayne Schnider. In June, Dentons also hired Nabarro corporate partner Jonathan Cantor.

Hill joins more than 30 partners who have left Olswang in the last 20 months as the firm prepared itself for a merger, which was voted through by the three partnerships in October.

The latest exits from the troubled tech player include co-head of life sciences and intellectual property partner Stephen Reese departing the firm in favour of Clifford Chance, the firm’s Spanish managing partner, Pablo Bieger Morales, who left for Broseta Abogados, and in Paris, experienced corporate partner Christophe Gaschin joined Groupe Bertrand as general counsel.

These latest departures add to those of Brussels partner Sylvie Rousseau, a former head of TMT for Linklaters in Paris, who quit the firm to become a consultant in July. Reading real estate partner Carol Phillips left the practice earlier this year to become head of real estate at Virgin Media.

Legal Business

Exits stack up as Olswang loses partners to Clifford Chance and Bond Dickinson


Olswang has suffered a double exit with its co-head of life sciences departing the firm in favour of Clifford Chance, while Bond Dickinson has appointed another partner from the tech firm as its head of funds.

IP partner Stephen Reese joined Olswang in 2002, advising on contentious and non-contentious intellectual property matters. Reese will leave to join Clifford Chance’s corporate practice as City firms continue to reinvigorate their IP practices.

During his time as co-head, Reese co-led the team advising shareholders of Convergence Pharmaceuticals on its acquisition by US biotechnology company Biogen for up to $675m. He also advised mobile commerce enabler MoPowered on its admission to trading on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market, which had a market capitalisation of approximately £15.8m on admission.

Allen & Overy (A&O) has also recently bulked up its IP offering, taking a further two IP partners from Simmons & Simmons, the third and fourth IP partner A&O have taken this year from the firm.

Meanwhile, Bond Dickinson has hired Olswang funds and regulatory partner Barry Stimpson.

Stimpson joined Bond Dickinson in July and has spent the past two months working as a consultant for Olswang as he transferred over to UK national firm.

Specialising in investment funds, joint ventures and limited liability partnerships, Stimpson joins Bond Dickinson with 26 years of legal experience. Joining Linklaters in 1987, Stimpson had a brief stint as an investment banking executive joining UBS in 1989 before signing on as partner at Blake Morgan in 1992. Since that time, Stimpson has been a partner at Squire Patton Boggs, RPC and DAC Beachcroft before joining Olswang in 2016 as a corporate partner.

Head of corporate at the firm Stephen Pierce said: ‘[Stimpson] is another excellent addition to our corporate finance team and strengthens our existing national practice, allowing us to nurture existing client relations, and, opening up opportunities for us to expand our current client network.’

Rumoured to be in merger talks with CMS Cameron McKenna, Olswang is said to be ripe for a merger after the firm saw an 11% drop in its turnover for the 2015/16 financial year with revenues falling by £14.2m to £112.5m. Its profits per equity partner (PEP) remained steady at £490,000.

Legal Business

Taylor Wessing hires buyout partner in latest London exit for Olswang


Taylor Wessing has moved to bolster its City buyout practice with the hire of a partner from Olswang in the latest in a string of departures from the City media and entertainment specialist.

Duncan McDonald joins Taylor Wessing’s City corporate team, bringing the number of lawyers covering private equity in London for the firm to 20. McDonald spent eight years at Olswang and has previously advised clients including Better Capital, Chamonix Private Equity and Sony.

Before joining Olswang, McDonald spent 18 months as general counsel for Citigroup Capital UK and was previously a partner at Pinsent Masons.

Taylor Wessing head of private equity James Goold said McDonald’s arrival would ‘consolidate our position in the UK and international private equity mid-market’.

Olswang has seen a number of partner exits in the last 18 months, with international telecommunications head Purvi Parekh leaving the firm earlier in the summer. Corporate partner Barry Stimpson also left in July to join Bond Dickinson. Stimpson worked with investment funds and private equity and has been retained as a consultant by Olswang despite his new role at Bond Dickinson.

The top 40 UK firm has seen a dip in revenues, falling 11% to £112.5m for 2015/16, the sharpest fall this year in the LB100, a fall linked to the departure last summer of a large team which moved to US practice Greenberg Traurig to launch a Berlin practice. The annual report showed Olswang had also lost 14 partners in that year to leave it a 100-partner firm.

In contrast, Taylor Wessing has been a consistent financial performer in recent years, with the Anglo-German law firm seeing revenues up 32% over the last five years to £254.5m.

For more on Taylor Wessing, see ‘No more Taylor Who?’ to see our analysis in the September edition (£)

Legal Business

‘Still monitoring’: Regulator silent on BHS inquiry as hearing continues


As MPs seek more documents for the BHS inquiry, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said it had not yet taken a position on the actions of lawyers involved.

Partners from Linklaters and Olswang were questioned by MPs of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee last week as part of the ongoing inquiry.

Linklaters corporate partner Owen Clay and Olswang general counsel Stephen Hermer were among lawyers which appeared before the joint committee inquiry last week. Linklaters had advised seller Arcadia Group while Olswang had advised Retail Acquisitions Limited.

The lawyers involved were pressed by Labour MP Frank Field on their advice during the sale after it emerged BHS buyer, Dominic Chappell, had been declared bankrupt twice. However Field said last week the hearings had ‘prompted more questions than answers’.

The SRA confirmed it was not currently taking a position on the lawyers involved in the BHS inquiry, but it was still ‘monitoring’ until there was evidence of misconduct. A spokesperson for the regulator told Legal Business, ‘for now, this is a watching brief’.

The Work and Pensions Committee has now written to Arcadia Group, the firm owned by Sir Phillip Green which controlled BHS prior to the sale, and to Goldman Sachs’ Anthony Gutman to get more information relating to the sale.

Field said: ‘We have already asked nearly 1,000 questions in our hearings. These requests for information are the first steps of the next stage of our inquiry.

‘We expect these documents to shed further light on the sorry tale of BHS before our sessions with Dominic Chappell and Sir Philip Green. Yet despite all the complexities it is now clear that Sir Philip called all the main shots.’

The inquiry has seen advisers placed in a difficult situation before a Parliamentary committee, with several questions falling short due to client privilege.

A City partner told Legal Business it was questionable what could be gained by interrogating legal advisers. ‘It has been pretty unusual, to date, for professional advisers to be hauled in before Parliament in this way.’

They added: ‘The challenge for everyone concerned is that solicitors will be bound to abide by a duty of confidentiality to their client, which potentially gives the impression that they are being evasive in their answers when in reality they have no choice as to what they are permitted to say. Given this, I would question the value of the process.’

Another senior City partner suggested lawyers would be ‘naïve’ to think they might not have to face similar inquiries.

They added: ‘Lawyers need to be better at this sort of thing and there needs to be better training as junior lawyers. We are in a profession where it is right that this may happen to us and we should expect it to happen. Get yourself prepared for it.’

Legal Business

Asia round-up: Olswang and Bird & Bird build offerings while Slaughters Hong Kong partner Hyman retires


The past week has seen changes for several UK-headquartered firms in Asia with Olswang appointing a new Asia managing partner and Bird & Bird making two lateral partner hires, as corporate partner Neil Hyman retires from Slaughter and May‘s Hong Kong office.

TMT firm Olswang has appointed a new Asia managing partner with corporate partner Andrew Stott taking over from Rob Bratby who headed the region for past four years. Olswang confirmed that Bratby will return to the London office to ‘take up a global telecoms and emerging markets role’. Bratby joined Olswang from US firm Mayer Brown as partner in 2008 where he worked in the City for almost four years before relocating to Singapore in 2012.

Olswang’s new Asia head Stott has been with the firm since 2002 and advises companies, financial institutions and individuals on international public and private M&A, investment deals and strategic joint ventures. Stott also has experience in working on multi-jurisdiction transactions across Europe, North America and Asia. His new role will take effect from 1 May 2016.

Olswang chief executive Paul Stevens commented: ‘We look forward to welcoming Rob back in London. His return to the UK was part of the firm’s plan from the outset, and we are very grateful to Rob for helping to build a robust and client-centric business in Singapore from which our team can grow further.’

Elsewhere, Slaughter and May Hong Kong corporate partner Hyman is due to retire from the partnership on 30 April. Hyman joined the firm in London in 1986 and was made a partner in the corporate practice in 1995. He then transferred to the firm’s Hong Kong office in 2001.

Some of his recent transactions include advising Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation on its $4.95bn acquisition of Wing Hang Bank; and representing international healthcare group Bupa on the acquisition of Quality HealthCare Medical Services, the largest private clinic network in Hong Kong, for $355m, from Fortis Healthcare.

Meanwhile, Bird & Bird is building its Asia Pacific teams with two new dispute recruits as Jonathan Choo joins from Olswang, and Robert Rhoda joins from RPC.

According to the firm, the ‘appointments represent a major boost to the firm’s rapidly growing Asia-Pacific dispute resolution group’ and places the firm ‘among the strongest arbitration teams in the Asia-Pacific region covering both contentious and non-contentious work’.

Choo will be based in Singapore and previously headed Olswang’s Asian arbitration and dispute resolution practice and also co-headed the international arbitration group. He has experience of a range of significant disputes and arbitrations both in Singapore and overseas.

Rhoda joins from RPC’s Hong Kong office, where he was a member of the commercial disputes group focusing on international arbitration. Rhoda has experience of high-stakes international arbitration matters, as well as advising on commercial litigation and regulatory matters in both London and Hong Kong.

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Olswang, Weil Gotshal among firms acting on French Burger King acquisition


A host of firms including Olswang, Weil Gotshal & Manges have won advisory work as Burger King France owner Groupe Bertrand negotiates to acquire Belgian hamburger chain Quick.

The proposed deal would see Groupe Bertrand acquire Quick’s 509 restaurants and rebrand the French outlets as Burger King, to make Group Bertrand the second biggest fast food restaurant group in country behind McDonalds, with €1bn of system sales after the transaction.

Olswang France is advising Groupe Bertrand, the majority stakeholder in Burger King with a team led by corporate partner Christophe Gaschin, with support from partner Jessica Schinkel. Other partners working on the transaction include tax partner Julien Monsenego, IP partner Clara Steinitz and Brussels managing partner Dirk Van Liedekerke, who is advising on competition issues.

Weil Gotshal are working with Qualium Investissement, which is the majority stakeholder in Quick.

White & Case, with a team led by partners Colin Chang and Samir Berla, is advising on the bond financing aspects of the transactions, as is Kirkland & Ellis. Paris based Opléo Avocats is advising Quick’s management team.

The acquisition could close by the end of the year and is subject to the approval of regulators and bondholders, as well as consultation with employee representative bodies.

Legal Business

Olswang’s entire Berlin office in talks with Freshfields and MoFo alongside other international firms


Following news yesterday (18 June) that 13 equity partners are exiting Olswang’s Berlin outpost, it has emerged that the entire 50-strong lawyer office is set to move en masse and is currently in talks with several international firms, including Morrison & Foerster and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Olswang confirmed yesterday that 13 Berlin-based partners, specialising mainly in corporate and finance, will leave ‘by agreement later in the year, along with their colleagues’ and that it is expecting to suffer a drop in revenues.

It has emerged however that all of the office’s lawyers are in talks with several law firms that could offer a strong international platform, including MoFo and Freshfields, to move collectively. A spokesperson for MoFo refused to comment while Freshfields did not return requests for comment. Other US firms are also in talks with the Berlin office but initial speculation that the group would launch as a boutique is understood to be false.

Should MoFo or Freshfields take the Olswang team it would make logistical sense as the firms are all located in the same building, the Kollhoff-Tower on Potsdamer Platz in central Berlin.

Whichever firm the Berlin team decide to move to will be gifted a strong offering. Olswang opened its Berlin office in 2007 and built its team with hires from Linklaters and Freshfields, a move which included its current managing partner in Germany, Christian Schede.

The departures are related to unrest stemming from the London office, most notably the surprise departure of former managing partner David Stewart last October.

For more on Olswang’s strategy and the fallout from Stewart’s departure see: Evasive Action – Can Olswang live up to its own ambitions?

Legal Business

Building the team: Olswang hires Winston & Strawn IP duo as its corporate head steps down


Following a somewhat uneven 2014, Olswang has hired an intellectual property partner duo from US firm Winston & Strawn in a bid to boost its City IP offering, while its corporate head Carpanini steps down after eight years.

Richard Price will join the TMT firm as head of IP arbitration, while Gareth Morgan joins as a partner in the IP practice. Price has experience of patent and trade mark litigation and arbitration, and will enhance the firm’s IP disputes offering, while patent litigator Morgan has experience of advising on pharma-regulatory issues. The duo bring with them two associates.

The team is known to have advised clients in the life sciences sector including Teva, Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, Focus Pharmaceuticals, Actavis, InterMune and Healing Herbs.

Both Price and Morgan joined Winston & Strawn in 2011 from Taylor Wessing and DLA Piper respectively, and were hired by the US firm to spearhead the launch of its IP practice.

Olswang acting-chief exec and IP partner Michael Burdon said: ‘We are pleased to welcome the team to Olswang’s growing IP practice. I have known Gareth and Richard for many years, and their team’s outstanding track record in patent, trade mark and passing off litigation and stellar reputation in the life sciences sector further strengthen the firm’s unique IP and trade mark practice and sector focus.’

In addition, the firm has appointed its senior corporate TMT Partner Mark Bertram as its new head of corporate. Bertram has 25 years’ experience advising a range of international corporate clients in the media, communications and technology sectors, on mergers and acquisitions, capital sourcing and structuring, and exit strategies. He is the relationship partner for digital marketing communications group Dentsu Aegis Network, and recently advised Olswang Key Client Tesco on the disposals of Tesco Broadband and Blinkbox Entertainment and Music.

Bertram has been at Olswang since 2007 and a member of the firm’s board since April 2013. He succeeds corporate and private equity partner Fabrizio Carpanini, who after eight years as group head decided to step down from the role to continue to focus on his client work. He will remain on the firm’s executive committee.

Burdon added: ‘Mark’s extensive expertise working with international technology, media and telecoms clients means he will be a tremendous asset to meet the increasing demand for advice on major cross-border TMT transactions.’

Legal Business

Training contracts: A&O cuts 2015 intake by 15% and reveals retention rates alongside HFW and Olswang

Allen & Overy’s (A&O) decision today (15 August) to reduce its trainee intake by 15% in 2015 will be closely watched by City rivals, many of which are also considering whether to cut their trainee numbers in light of diminishing newly-qualified (NQ) roles in the medium term.

The top five LB100 firm, which achieved a modest turnover growth of 1% this year to £1,189m, is cutting its trainee numbers from 100 to 90 in 2014, followed by a further drop to 85 in 2015. A statement from the firm said the decision was taken in order to ‘match [its] expectations of NQ jobs in the medium-term.’

Graduate recruitment partner Richard Hough, added: ‘We aim to recruit for the long-term as well as providing a high quality training contract.

‘Managing our intake numbers means that we aren’t just offering our trainees excellent training and experience, but also a strong prospect of a long-term career with the firm after qualification.’

The announcement comes as A&O is also the latest and last Magic Circle firm to release its trainee retention rate, posting a figure of 72%.

A total of 45 out of 51 applicants have been made offers and 39 accepted a permanent position with the firm. This signals a dip on last autumn’s results, when the firm retained a total of 46 out of 58 trainees, giving it a retention rate of 79%.

This round the firm has posted the lowest retention rates of any Magic Circle firm, as Linklaters, Slaughter and May, Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer all released figures upwards of 80%.

However, David Campbell, partner and training principal, said: ‘The job market for NQs continues to be tough but we are pleased to have been able to offer jobs to so many of our trainees. A number of this year’s intake decided not to accept offers, so our retention rate is lower than we expected.’

Elsewhere, Holman Fenwick Willan has taken on 100% of its trainees, while at the other end of the spectrum only 54% of Olswang’s qualifying trainees have been given a position at the firm after seven of 11 were offered a permanent position and six accepted the offer.