Legal Business

‘Opportunistic’: Sidley Austin taps Simpson Thacher for brace of London private equity lawyers

‘Opportunistic’: Sidley Austin taps Simpson Thacher for brace of London private equity lawyers

With demand for City-based buyout specialists greater than ever, Sidley Austin is making good on its strategy of bolstering its European private equity practice with the hire of two lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s highly-rated practice in London.

Wim De Vlieger had been counsel since 2007 and Till Lefranc an associate at Simpson Thacher since 2008. The pair will become partners and will start at Sidley’s London office within the next two months.

De Vlieger advises clients across Europe on deals including acquisitions and consortia arrangements, high yield debt financings, IPOs and divestitures. His institutional clients include Apax Partners, KKR and TDR Capital.

LeFranc advises private equity, bank and corporate clients on M&A and capital markets transactions in Europe. His clients also include Apax and KKR.

Erik Dahl, co-head of Sidley’s private equity practice, told Legal Business: ‘The hires were opportunistic and part of a strategy to organically grow the practice to make Sidley one of the top firms for private equity in Europe’.

Dahl was part of a six-partner team which set tongues wagging among the PE community when it left Kirkland & Ellis in February 2016 with the express purpose of establishing a City private equity team at Sidley. Prior to that the firm only had one London private equity partner – Stephen Blackshaw – who had also co-headed the corporate group.

The other partners to exit Kirkland for Sidley at the time were Christian Iwasko, Fatema Orjela, banking partner Bryan Robson, corporate partner Sava Savov and tax partner Oliver Currall.

Sidley then re-launched in Germany in March, with London and Munich-based Dahl brought in to establish and lead the firm’s German office. To that end, he raided Kirkland once again for a seven-partner team to furnish the German office.

Sidley secured the corporate work of key Kirkland client TowerBrook Capital Partners with the relationship managed by Dahl and fellow corporate partner Christian Iwasko.

Dahl noted that the new hires will also be well placed to bring their finance expertise to bear on future opportunities in the restructuring market. ‘A potential uptick in restructuring transactions is something that the practice is keeping on its radar’.

Meanwhile Jason Glover, managing partner of Simpson Thacher’s London office, pointed to the high-profile hire of Ben Spiers from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year and the promotion of Clare Gaskell to partner in 2015 as evidence of the firm’s commitment to the London private equity practice.

‘We have staffed up our practices significantly, so when there are departures, we can continue to offer the same level of service to our clients,’ Glover added.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: International firms return to hiring season with multiple City and global recruits

Revolving doors: International firms return to hiring season with multiple City and global recruits

International law firms have returned from the summer break in acquisition mode, with Berwin Leighton Paisner, Bird & Bird, Taylor Wessing, Reed Smith and Pinsent Masons all hiring in London and Asia, while Sidley, Dentons and Osborne Clarke are expanding their continental European footprint.

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has this morning (11 September) announced the appointment of three new international disputes partners to further strengthen its litigation and corporate risk (LCR) practice.

George Burn joins BLP from Vinson & Elkins as head of international arbitration later this month, while Gavin Margetson, formerly of Herbert Smith Freehills, has been hired to lead the firm’s regional arbitration hub in Singapore. Based in London, Richard Chalk is an international disputes and investigations partner, who was previously at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London and Hong Kong.

BLP global head of LCR Nathan Willmott said these appointments are a direct result of a recent LCR strategy review. ‘The strategy review was an important milestone for us as a department. With so many of the team involved, it’s meant our future really is a collective effort. These hires all demonstrate our intent to get on with the job and start delivering on a global scale’.

Bird & Bird has added to its equity capital market capabilities with the hire of Clive Hopewell and Adam Carling from Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS).

Hopewell will lead the practice expansion in London, building on the Middle East contacts made while heading CRS’s operations in Bahrain. Speaking to Legal Business, he said: ‘Bird & Bird has a very substantial presence in Europe, Asia and Australia. The firm has an established office in Abu Dhabi and an established presence in Dubai. I’ll go there two or three times a year to help introduce them to clients.’

Carling has experience in Africa and has advised on mining deals on the continent. Neil Blundell, head of Bird & Bird’s London corporate group, said the hires would ‘further increase our reputation in the mining and oil and gas sectors’.

Meanwhile, Taylor Wessing turned to Paul Hastings to bring Mark Rajbenbach into its real estate team.

Keith Barnett, head of real estate at the firm – which now has more than 60 lawyers in its core London real estate group and more than 100 working on real estate across the London base – said the addition of Rajbenbach was ‘very exciting for our team, particularly in corporate real estate and the hotels area’.

Rajbenbach was at SJ Berwin & Co before joining Paul Hastings, and his clients have included Invesco Real Estate, Starwood Capital, Evans Randall, Hilton, London & Regional, Schroders and RRAM Energy.

Elsewhere, Reed Smith has hired Leith Moghli as a partner in its global private equity and investment funds practice in London. Moghli left Kirkland & Ellis in April, where he had been a salaried partner since October 2014 in the funds practice.

Pinsent Masons has appointed Chris Richardson to lead its new forensic accounting service (FAS). He joins the firm after 16 years in the fraud investigations team at EY.

In Brussels, Sidley Austin has hired Wim Nauwelaerts from Hunton & Williams. Nauwelaerts advises on EU and international data protection and privacy compliance, including preparation for the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

He told Legal Business: ‘Sidley Austin is one of the prominent firms in Brussels and I am very excited about the prospect of expanding their global data protection practice.’

Also in Europe, Dentons strengthened its M&A and capital markets practices with the addition of Shaohui Zhang, who joins as head of the China desk in Luxembourg from Allen & Overy, and Antonella Brambilla in the corporate and M&A practice in Milan from local firm Chiomenti.

Dentons Italy managing partner Federico Sutti told Legal Business: ‘In Italy we see signs of recovery in equity capital markets. Antonella has the standing and the experience to allow Dentons to play a role in this in the near future.’

Finally, Osborne Clarke has announced the opening of a new office in Stockholm, led by Fredrik von Baumgarten and Henrik Bergström. Von Baumgarten joins from his own firm Baumgarten Byström Rooth & Partners and was previously a partner at Nordic firms Hannes Snellman and Vinge, while Bergström was previously at Bird & Bird.

Simon Beswick, international chief executive at Osborne Clarke, said: ‘Not only is Sweden the third most active M&A market in Europe and growing faster than most other European economies, it’s a key market for many of our core sector clients.’

The Sweden office means the firm now has 25 international bases in Europe and Asia.

Legal Business

Global London results: Sidley Austin City turnover hits £75m as Reed Smith sees a dip

Global London results: Sidley Austin City turnover hits £75m as Reed Smith sees a dip

Sidley Austin has seen its London turnover boosted by 17% in 2016, hitting £75.2m for the firm’s last financial year, while other US shops paint a mixed picture in Legal Business’s Global London Report.

Sidley Austin’s solid year follows a year of extensive lateral recruitment, having landed a six-partner private equity and finance team from Kirkland & Ellis in March 2016, the Chicago outfit saw City revenue grow from £64.2m to £75.2m. The firm made a total of 12 partner level hires last year, with hires from firms including Kirkland; Linklaters; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Paul Hastings; Willkie Farr & Gallagher; and DLA Piper.

Meanwhile, other US firms reported a mixed bag of results, with Reed Smith seeing London turnover drop 5% in sterling terms to £129m in 2016 from £135m the year before.

Firms including Debevoise & Plimpton, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and King and Spalding have all also seen City turnover dip in 2016.

White & Case has remained on the front foot with a 4% increase to $290m, more muted after the firm’s 22% boost in the City in 2015.

Baker McKenzie’s UK LLP results, released today, showed the firm had enjoyed solid growth in 2016, up just over 20% to £176m.

The world’s largest firm by revenue, Latham & Watkins, this year refused to disclose its London office turnover, a year after falling behind White & Case as the highest-billing US firm in the City.

Last year the firm reported revenues for 2015 were up 12% to $263m, however Legal Business understands this year City turnover was relatively flat during a quiet year for its key leveraged buyout practice.

For more on international firms in the City, see the 2017 Global London report

Legal Business

Focus: Sidley Austin

Focus: Sidley Austin

London office headcount: 134 lawyers, 45 partners

Fee-earner headcount change since 2011: +17%

London head: Matthew Dening

Office speciality: Funds, private equity, finance, restructuring, capital markets

Representative work: Advised TowerBrook Capital Partners on its sale of Netherlands-based frozen food company Van Geloven to McCain Foods; acting for Wells Fargo on its £300m purchase of a new European headquarters in London.

‘Private equity has been an ambition of the firm for some time. While the team is based in London, it is a global initiative.’
Matthew Dening, Sidley Austin



One the biggest movers in the Global London report this year in terms of headcount, Sidley Austin started 2016 with a bang. A hiring spree saw the firm recruit 12 partners into its London team, compared to one in 2015, eliciting comments from City rivals that the firm had ‘pulled out the chequebook’ and ‘put its money where its mouth is’.

The firm has made good on ambitions to push hard to create a broad private equity (PE) and sponsor-led finance offering, and the list of targets on the firm’s roster – Kirkland & Ellis; Linklaters; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Paul Hastings; Willkie Farr & Gallagher; and DLA Piper – are testament to a year of investment.

Lawyer headcount in the office has grown from 108 in 2015 to 134 last year, an increase of 24%, while partner numbers at the turn of the new year had risen from 35 to 45. The recruitment drive returns the firm to the level of coverage it enjoyed around 2008, after which the firm retrenched from the City in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

City turnover reached record levels, up to £75.2m for 2016 from £64.2m in 2015. Globally, the firm remains steadily on the up, if at a slower pace than in recent years, with Sidley posting a small revenue boost to $1.93bn, up 3% following on from a year of 6% growth in 2015. Profit per equity partner has also seen a 3% bump, from $2.06m to $2.13m.

The year was punctuated by aggressive team hires from Kirkland. In February it was reported Sidley had landed a six-partner team from the Chicago firm, including the rare departure of two equity partners. The joiners included corporate partners Erik Dahl, Christian Iwasko, Sava Savov and Fatema Orjela; leveraged finance partner Bryan Robson; and tax partner Oliver Currall.

The team was later reunited with Willkie partner and former Kirkland debt financing partner James Crooks, and was further boosted by the addition of bankruptcy partner Jifree Cader, also from Kirkland, employment partner Susan Fanning from DLA, and a high-yield debt team comprising Alan Grinceri from Cravath and Noel Hughes from Paul Hastings.

And, over Christmas, the firm completed its 2016 spree with the hire of banking rising star Yen Sum from Linklaters, who is expected to develop its alternative lender clients.

Sidley’s London offering now offers a package of PE and other funds-focused lawyers. Says office managing partner Matthew Dening: ‘Private equity has been an ambition of the firm for some time. While the team is based in London, it is a global initiative.’

That London growth syncs with the firm’s European ambition. With the arrival of Dahl, the firm returned to the German market two years after making an exit from Frankfurt. Since his arrival, the firm has further added nine laterals in Munich, seven from Kirkland and one each from DLA and Linklaters, although many are still serving gardening leave at their previous firms.

Work has now turned to bedding in the London team and securing the kind of deals the partners were hired to complete.

Key work for the new team has been winning clients such as TowerBrook Capital Partners. Early mandates have included advising TowerBrook on its acquisition of Dutch education company Van Dijk Educatie for an undisclosed fee, led by buyout partners Iwasko, Savov and Orjela with finance from Robson. The firm has also won restructuring work, advising French vehicle leasing firm Fraikin, which holds €1.4bn of debt.

The firm’s new cohort of partners are unsurprisingly optimistic about the team they have built at their new firm. Says debt finance partner Crooks: ‘We know that from a market perspective, for firms to invest, the decision becomes tougher: do you dip your toe in the water and go out with a small offering, not supplemented with the full firepower of a high-yield bond team twinned with restructuring, levfin and core M&A? Unlike some, we are able to fully hit the range of deals and structures our target clients want to be able to use.’

The combined offering of the Kirkland hires, along with Sidley’s existing London unit, is not insubstantial. But with the addition of such a portable and high-value team, as demonstrated by the raid on Kirkland, Sidley’s management will now have to work to bed down the new arrivals and take full advantage of the momentum handed to them.

Matthew Field

Legal Business

US financials: Shearman partner cuts see PEP jump 18% as Sidley posts steady 3% revenue rise

US financials: Shearman partner cuts see PEP jump 18% as Sidley posts steady 3% revenue rise

Shearman & Sterling has boosted its revenue by 6% for 2016, sitting at $912m while Sidley Austin has seen more subdued results, with turnover up 3%.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) jumped substantially by 18% up from $1.84m to $2.17m. Lawyer headcount remained stable with an increase of six to 840. London’s lawyer headcount increased by five to 187 as City revenue was up by 14% increase to $169.7m.

The results will ease concerns over last year’s mixed financials where Shearman posted a 2% rise in revenues which reached $860m, but PEP partner dropped 4% from $1.9m to $1.84m.

In the second half of last year Shearman agreed to cut its equity partnership and saw a series of departures, including private equity head Mark Soundy, who left in October along with UK tax head Sarah Priestley. Shearman’s European grouping, led by project finance partner Nick Buckworth, did not hire any new partners in Europe in 2016.

Buckworth (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We’ve had a much, much tighter view of our strategy, we’ve had strong leadership and as a result, just by being disciplined, you can see the results coming through. This is a firm that is very much on the up and we’re starting to really motor.’

When asked whether he expects more hires to be made in 2017, Buckworth added: ‘Scale is irrelevant. What we’re looking for is a growth that enhances Shearman & Sterling as a choice globally. Predominantly our growth will come from within, we have great talent here, and we’re always going to look at growth laterally in areas where we don’t necessarily have the internal, home-grown resource or in areas where we want to move the business.’

Meanwhile, Sidley Austin has posted a small revenue boost to $1.93bn, up around 3% on 2015. Profit per equity partner also crept up 3% to $2.13m while the firm saw a small increase in headcount to 1,836 from 1,779 and the total number of equity partners grew by four to 346.

The firm has made additional drives for European bench strength since the turn of the year, including an eight partner hire in Munich to significantly reinforce its European private equity offering.


Legal Business

Sidley returns to Kirkland for seven-partner Munich launch as US giant sustains European assault

Sidley returns to Kirkland for seven-partner Munich launch as US giant sustains European assault

Observers of Kirkland & Ellis’ patented burn ‘n’ churn approach to talent management are used to a little partnership movement, but even by the US leader’s standards, news today (15 February) that Sidley Austin has secured a seven-partner haul in Munich will catch attention.

The move sees Sidley return to Kirkland in dramatic fashion after last February hiring a six-partner deal team from Kirkland’s London office, a rare instance of the Chicago-bred institution losing an equity partner to a rival.

Veteran partner Volker Kullmann, joins with fellow corporate partners Björn Holland, Christian Zuleger, Nicole Schlatter and Marcus Klie, as well as finance partner Markus Feil and tax partner Roderic Pagel.

Kullmann joined Kirkland from Clifford Chance (CC) in 2004. With a focus on private equity and corporate, his clients include Ardian, Bridgepoint, Gilde Buy Out Partners, Intermediate Capital Group and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

The transferring Kirkland team will be joined by Linklaters Frankfurt-based restructuring partner Kolja von Bismarck. Also ex-CC, von Bismarck joined Linklaters in 2009. The new recruits join Jan Schinköth, who arrived from DLA Piper at the beginning of the month and was also previously a partner at Kirkland.

Kirkland’s Munich office is left with five corporate partners and an overall headcount of 14 partners.

Sidley had re-launched in Germany in March last year after the recruitment of the six-partner team led by Erik Dahl in London. The London and Munich-based Dahl was brought in to establish and lead the firm’s German office. Sidley secured the corporate work of key Kirkland client TowerBrook Capital Partners with the relationship managed by Dahl and fellow corporate partner Christian Iwasko.

Sidley had previously shut its Frankfurt office in 2014 following a spate of partner exits that put the office under a review in 2013 but the firm has obviously upgraded its ambitions for Europe.

While Kirkland confirmed the departures, Sidley European head George Petrow said: ‘The addition of these outstanding partners to our Munich office is another key step forward on Sidley’s road toward first-tier global leadership in acting for private capital. Contrary to growing scepticism in some quarters about the future of globalised markets, we remain convinced that the ability to offer cross-border legal services will continue to offer outstanding growth opportunities to the firms capable of exploiting them, and nowhere more so than in private equity, restructuring and M&A.’

For more on the revolving door between Sidley and Kirkland, see ‘Kiss the ring – patronage, in-fighting and exits threaten to stall Kirkland’s bandwagon’ (£)

Legal Business

Deal watch: Corporate activity in December 2016

Deal watch: Corporate activity in December 2016


Travers Smith advised long-time client Bridgepoint as it sold off Oasis Dental Care to White & Case client Bupa for £835m. DLA Piper also acted on the deal, advising the dental firm’s management team.


Legal Business

Rising star Sum quits for Sidley Austin in blow for Linklaters banking practice

Rising star Sum quits for Sidley Austin in blow for Linklaters banking practice

Rising restructuring star Yen Sum will exit Linklaters‘ banking practice to join US firm Sidley Austin after eight years with the Magic Circle firm.

Before joining Linklaters, Sum trained at the firm’s Australian alliance partner Allens. She joined Linklaters in 2002, moving to Barclays as a leveraged finance specialist in 2005 before returning to the Magic Circle firm in 2008 and making partner in 2010.

Sum is rated in The Legal 500 for her restructuring and insolvency work. Her experience includes leading on the £2.8bn restructuring of French clothing retailer Vivarte and acting on the £2.3bn restructuring of directories business Yell.

The Magic Circle partner will join Sidley a year after the firm also saw veteran restructuring partner David Ereira move to US firm Paul Hastings. Ereira was a rare lateral hire within the Magic Circle, having moved from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to Linklaters in 2007.

Linklaters global banking group is led by Tony Bugg, the former head of restructuring and insolvency, a practice which is now led by global co-heads Rebecca Jarvis and Richard Bussell.

In February, Bugg had picked Sum to lead a push for greater market penetration in the shadow banking space. Sum had previously worked in Barclays Capital’s leveraged finance unit.

Sum will join former Linklaters veteran corporate partner Stephen Blackshaw at Sidley, who joined the US firm’s London office in 2012. Blackshaw is currently co-head of corporate at the London office, having spent 14 years at Linklaters, founding the firm’s Amsterdam office and leading its corporate group.

Linklaters relatively stable banking practice was previously led by now managing partner Gideon Moore. In private equity, the Magic Circle firm has seen more losses to US rivals, with five partners moving to Kirkland & Ellis in the past two years.

Sidley has sought to strengthen its base in the City with a six-partner hire earlier this year from Kirkland, allowing the US firm boost its London private equity offering.

Sidley co-chair of corporate restructuring and bankruptcy James Conlan said: ‘Yen has an excellent reputation in the market and is a welcome addition to our practice and to Sidley. She will also work with our growing team of private equity and finance lawyers as we expand the firm’s offering to clients in situations across the UK, the rest of Europe, Asia and the US.’

Linklaters said in a statement: ‘We can confirm that Yen Sum will be retiring from the firm at the end of the year. We thank her for contribution to the firm and wish her well.’

Read more on the City’s top banking teams in the feature: ‘Golden goodbyes – changing faces and fortunes at the City’s top banking teams’


Legal Business

Sidley Austin continues work for Bank of Cyprus with FTSE listing

Sidley Austin continues work for Bank of Cyprus with FTSE listing

Sidley Austin‘s London office is advising as the Bank of Cyprus prepares to list on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

A team led by Sidley co-head of corporate Stephen Blackshaw is advising the bank with tax partner Will Smith and regulatory partner Rachpal Thind. Cypriot counsel is local firm Chryssafinis & Polyviou with managing partner Polyvios Polyviou advising the bank.

HSBC is the sole financial adviser to the bank on the planned float. Linklaters is advising HSBC with a team led by capital markets partner Jason Manketo and corporate partner John Lane.

The bank will use an Irish holding company in order to join the FTSE index. It will remain listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange as well as the LSE, but remove its listing from the Athens bourse.

The bank is the largest in Cyprus, employing more than 4,000 staff and controlling around €13bn of the Mediterranean island’s deposit market.

The Bank of Cyprus has gone through a period of recovery since the Cypriot financial crisis in 2012-13, while chief executive John Hourican has long held the goal of listing the bank on the LSE since he took over after its 2013 bailout. The bank was saved from collapse by an international rescue package in 2013 and went through a subsequent recapitalisation by HSBC and Credit Suisse.

Sidley has a long relationship advising the bank since its rescue. City-based finance partner Matthew Cahill led Sidley’s efforts on the bank’s recapitalisation in 2014 alongside capital markets partner Stephen Roith. However, Cahill has since left the firm and has been charged in relation to tax fraud. Roith also left in 2015 to join London boutique Raines & Co.

On the recapitalisation, Linklaters advised HSBC and Credit Suisse, with corporate partner Nick Garland and capital markets partner Jason Manketo leading. Cypriot firm Chryssafinis & Polyviou acted as local counsel.

It has been a difficult year for London listings as automotive company TI Fluid Systems, software giant Misys and fitness firm PureGym have abandoned plans to float in recent months.

For more on the Cypriot economic recovery, see ‘Cyprus: picking up the pieces’

Legal Business

Deal watch: Corporate activity in October 2016

Deal watch: Corporate activity in October 2016

CC and Davis Polk On $8bn China IPO: Davis Polk & Wardwell advised Postal Savings Bank of China on its Hong Kong Stock Exchange float, with Clifford Chance leading for the underwriting banks, including JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. King & Wood Mallesons acted as Chinese counsel to the banks, while Haiwen & Partners was Chinese adviser to Postal Savings Bank.