Legal Business

V&E hires energy and infra partner de Cintré from Milbank in the City

Vinson & Elkins has hired Milbank’s Kilian de Cintré as a partner into its corporate and finance practice in London, the firm announced today (13 November).

The move builds on the hire last month of energy and infrastructure finance partner Chris Taufatofua, also from Milbank, to its corporate and finance practice in London.

At Milbank, de Cintré spent almost eight years in the London office. His wealth of experience encompasses representing sponsors, development finance institutions, commercial lenders, and export credit agencies on the development, structuring and financing of complex natural resources, infrastructure and energy projects internationally.

He has been recognised in The Legal 500 as a rising star, playing a support role on a number of key oil and gas mandates. He also brings with him extensive knowledge of project development and commercial documentation.

He has served as an associate at Winston & Strawn, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Linklaters earlier in his career.

Head of V&E’s London corporate practice, Ben Higson, commented: ‘With his cross-industry experience and approach to working across practice groups, Kilian is a natural complement to the firm’s London corporate and finance practice and culture.’

Higson added, ‘Alongside Chris Taufatofua, he is another very valuable addition, especially as demand grows for investment in, and financing for, projects in the energy transition space.’

Legal Business

‘It means business in London’: V&E takes Hogan Lovells’ Higson as City corporate head

Hogan Lovells’ London M&A partner Ben Higson has been appointed as Vinson & Elkins’ London head of corporate.  

He takes up the role after 15 years at Hogan Lovells, including eight years as head of the corporate team. He also served as an elected member of the firm’s global management board between 2014 and 2020.

Higson’s experience includes energy, infrastructure, natural resources and diversified industrials transactions. He recently advised Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation on its $735m acquisition of Bahia Minerals and ExxonMobil on its $1.75bn disposal of the North Sea assets of Mobil North Sea and other projects.

Speaking to Legal Business, Higson said: ‘Vinson & Elkins is clearly one of the world’s leading firms in energy and infrastructure, and has always been in that position, so there was a natural synergy with the practice that I already had.  

‘Energy and infrastructure is an area that is continually evolving and what Vinson & Elkins has achieved in following and staying ahead of the trends is impressive. It is at the forefront of some of the cutting-edge deals including those supporting the energy transition and moving from a carbon-heavy to a carbon-neutral world.’

Kaam Sahely, V&E’s co-head of corporate, added: ‘During 2022, we have seen increasing demand from our private capital and strategic clients for our experience in infrastructure transactions across the digital, transportation and energy sectors, including specifically energy transition.

‘Ben’s experience in these areas together with his ability to lead deal teams make him a perfect fit.’

Higson’s arrival follows that of former colleagues Roberta Downey and Angus Rankin, who joined V&E’s international construction disputes practice as partners from Hogan Lovells in October 2021. 

Higson concluded: ‘We will be looking to build the practice up at partner level as well as associate level. For people doing this type of work, the firm presents a really attractive proposition and I hope with me joining the market will see that Vinson & Elkins means business in London.’

Legal Business

Milbank continues City hiring spree with Shearman high yield guru Gkoutzinis as Vinson nabs Jones Day finance partner

High-yield specialist Apostolos Gkoutzinis is to join Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy from US rival Shearman & Sterling, a move which marks the firm’s fifth hire in the space of a week.

The recruitment of Gkoutzinis, Shearman’s head of European capital markets, is another sign of Milbank’s ambitions to make its mark in City finance, coming just days after it secured a four-partner restructuring team from Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft.

That move – which included Cadwaladers’ global financial restructuring co-chair Yushan Ng, and partners Jacqueline Ingram, Karen McMaster and Sinjini Saha – was a significant boost to Milbank’s City finance team, which counts among its clients Oaktree, KKR, Centerbridge Capital Partners and Blackstone.

Gkoutzinis (pictured) was made up to partner in Shearman’s European capital markets group in 2011 having joined the firm in 2005 as an associate.

He specialises in US federal securities law, high-yield debt offerings and general debt and equity capital markets transactions across leveraged finance, SEC-registered offerings, restructurings, recapitalisations and privatisations. Since 2005, Gkoutzinis has acted on the majority of IPO and high-yield bond transactions in the Greek market brought about the country’s sovereign debt crisis.

In another key City move by a US firm, Vinson & Elkins (V&E) has added Jones Day acquisition and leveraged finance partner Paul Simcock to its London finance bench. The move follows V&E’s hire last year of Clifford Chance finance partner John Dawson.

Simcock joined Jones Day in 2014 having previously been a partner at Berwin Leighton Paisner. He was previously counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for seven years after training at Allen & Overy.

He has acted for private equity sponsors, alternative credit providers, banks and corporations across a range of debt restructurings, distressed transactions, refinancings and other syndicated and bilateral lending projects. Recent mandates have included advising L1 Retail, the retail investment arm of LetterOne, on the £900m senior financing underpinning the acquisition of heath retailer Holland & Barrett from The Nature’s Bounty Co. and The Carlyle Group.

He has also advised Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund II (MEIF II) on deals including the refinancing and sale of National Car Parks group (NCP) and the refinancing of Condor Ferries Group, an operator of passenger and freight ferry services.

‘Our corporate team has been growing rapidly, and with the addition of another top-tier hire, we’re positioned to push even further into one of the leading finance capitals of the world,’ said London-based Jeff Eldredge, co-head of V&E’s corporate department.

‘Paul is an extremely accomplished lawyer whose strong relationships and energetic approach to client service are exactly what we look for at V&E’, Eldredge added.

For more on Apostolos Gkoutzinis’ career, read ‘Life during law: Apostolos Gkoutzinis, Shearman & Sterling’

Legal Business

20% hike at Vinson pushes associate starting pay to £120k as US leaders heat up City talent market

Vinson & Elkins(V&E) has increased its London associate and trainee solicitor salary levels, boosting newly qualified salaries 20% to £120,000 and first-year trainee salaries by 11% to£50,000.

The firm announced the rates this week (20 July), alongside its second-year associates pay. They will receive a pay rise of 15% to £127,000 (from £110,000 previously), while the firm boosted third-year salaries to £140,000, a 17% increase from £120,000 last year. Meanwhile, the firm hiked second-year trainee salaries 17% to £55,000.

All of the associate salary increases at V&E were implemented on 1 July 2017, while the trainee increases take effect from 1 September 2017.

In January 2017, when V&E published its financial results, its revenues were up 4% to $653.9m. PEP was $2.03m for the year.

The new compensation structure follows V&E’s move in January 2016 to increase all of its London-based associate salary levels and raise its newly qualified salaries to £100,000, then a 25% rise.

At the time, second-year associates also received an overall pay increase of 22% to £110,000, while third-year wages grew 20% to £120,000. The Texas firm last increased salary levels to £45,000 for first-year trainees in September 2015, and £47,500 for second-year trainees.

V&E’s London managing partner Alex Msimang said it is very important that the firm attracts and retains top talent at every level.

‘This is a highly competitive market, and we believe these compensation adjustments exemplify our appreciation for the hard work and excellent service that our associates and trainees provide to our clients every day,’ he added.

Earlier this month, Akin Gump also increased trainee salaries by 12% and 8% for first and second years respectively, raising incoming first-year trainee pay from £43,000 to £48,000, and second-year salaries from £48,000 to £52,000. NQ pay at Akin remains at $180,000 which is £140,000 at current exchange rates, as the firm last increased NQ remuneration levels in September 2016 from £100,000.

Also in this year’s pay review, Jones Day boosted their junior lawyers’ pay by 18%, rising to £100,000, £15,000 up from last year.

Legal Business

Clifford Chance loses City finance partner to Vinson & Elkins

Vinson & Elkins (V&E) has hired London Clifford Chance (CC) finance partner John Dawson, as the US firm strengthens its push into the City.

With clients such as Bridgepoint, Electra and Vivacom, Dawson has experience of public and private acquisition financings, restructurings, unitranche, loan–to-own and acquisitions of loan portfolios. He joined CC as a trainee in 1999 and was made up to partner in 2010.

Dawson’s appointment brings the US firm’s UK partner headcount to 15. He joins a number of recent hires the US firm’s City office has made in the last eighteen months, as it bolsters its private equity capability.

In October 2016, V&E brought in Ashurst’s former Singapore head, private equity specialist Shaun Lascelles. Earlier in 2016, V&E hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer finance partner Ian Frost and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft deal-maker Paul Dunbar.

Dawson is one of several London partners to exit CC for a US firm over the past year. This May, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan turned to the Magic Circle firm for London-based tax investigations and disputes head Liesl Fichardt.

In October, CC corporate finance heavyweight Patrick Sarch, head of CC’s global banking sector team, left the firm for White & Case.

To compete with high-paying US rivals, CC last month voted through another round of changes to its remuneration structure, two years after last bringing more flexibility into its pay system.

The firm’s management can now raise select partners to 150 points or 130 points and a bonus. This hike is greater than the 115/130 points previously available for CC’s top earners.

The points ranged initially between 40 and 100 before 2015, with a discretionary gate at 70 points, aimed primarily at the Magic Circle firm’s European offices.

CC thanked Dawson for his contribution to the firm. V&E declined to comment.






Legal Business

‘Ready to hit the ground running’: former Ashurst PE player Lascelles joins Vinson & Elkins


Private equity specialist Shaun Lascelles, the former Ashurst Singapore head whose departure was announced last month, has joined Vinson & Elkins (V&E) in the City, it has been confirmed today (3 October).

Leaving just over a year after being hired to recharge Ashurst’s private equity practice, Lascelles (pictured) joined in 2015 from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom where he co-headed its global private equity practice. With a particular focus in M&A and private equity, Lascelles advises a broad range of private equity firms, hedge funds, state-owned investment funds and other investment funds.

Lascelles follows former colleague counsel Simon Rootsey who moved to V&E from Skadden in July. While at Skadden, the pair both guided Doughty Hanson through its £935m sale of cinema operator Vue Entertainment to OMERS private equity and AIMCo. Also at Skadden, Lascelles’ team was shortlisted for the Legal Business Private Equity Team of the Year in 2014 for advising BlackRock on the purchase of Credit Suisse’s exchange-traded funds division, giving the client an important footing in Europe.

‘Shaun has earned an excellent reputation in London and beyond as a leading private equity adviser, and his practice perfectly complements our existing client base,’ said Jeff Eldredge, V&E’s head of corporate for Europe, Middle East and Africa. ‘We are focused on strategically growing our group with lawyers just like Shaun.’

Lascelles said: ‘It’s a very exciting opportunity to further expand the M&A and private equity group in London. The firm has been looking to expand its capability in these areas and the senior team in London has more than doubled with the addition of Paul Dunbar, Simon and me and with Daniel Graham being made up to counsel.’

He added: ‘The firm has historically been very strong in energy and Africa, which has been where much of my work has been over the past few years, so it is a very good fit.’

Earlier this year, V&E hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer finance partner Ian Frost and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft deal maker Paul Dunbar to bolster its offering in the burgeoning City private equity market.

News of Lascelles’ exit from Ashurst came the same day (15 September) as it was revealed it had lost its Abu Dhabi head Alastair Holland to US firm Curtis Mallet-Prevost Colt & Mosle and its Hong Kong managing partner Lina Lee joining Allen & Overy.

As well as losing Lascelles, Ashurst lost his predecessor, corporate partner Keith McGuire from its Singapore office following his decision to join PwC Legal.

Legal Business

Middle East consolidation continues: V&E latest to pull out of Abu Dhabi


In the midst of volatile oil and gas markets, energy-focused firm Vinson & Elkins (V&E) has become the latest firm to close down its Abu Dhabi office.

Following a strategic review of the firm’s Middle East operations, the firm’s management committee voted to shut its entire Abu Dhabi base and transfer its offering to V&E’s two offices in Dubai and Riyadh.

Energy transactions and projects partner Rob Patterson and other staff will relocate to Dubai while V&E chairman Mark Kelly said the firm is working ‘closely with all of [its] Middle East practice staff to ensure a smooth transition’.

The Abu Dhabi office will officially close for business at the end of March this year, leaving the firm with 14 international offices. Having opened in 2007, the Abu Dhabi office provided advice to clients in the oil and gas sector mostly complex energy projects in the region.

Kelly said: ‘The Middle East remains a key part of our international practice, and we expect this consolidation will have minimal impact on our ability to serve clients in the region.’

Another firm to recently pull out of the region was Simmons & Simmons which announced last month it will close its Abu Dhabi office affecting five lawyers including three partners. The closure means the firm will service clients from its Dubai office which is its largest office in the region.

While shrinking in the Middle East, V&E expanded in London earlier this month after it hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer finance partner Ian Frost and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft deal doer Paul Dunbar in an attempt to cash in on the burgeoning City private equity market.

Legal Business

Vinson & Elkins ramps up City private equity push with hires from Freshfields and Cadwalader


US firm Vinson & Elkins has hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer finance partner Ian Frost and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft deal doer Paul Dunbar in an attempt to cash in on the burgeoning City private equity market.

The double hire sees Frost depart Freshfields after 22 years at the Magic Circle firm, the last decade of which he has been a partner. He specialises in leveraged buy-outs and also handles syndicated lending, property financings and restructuring work.

Frost’s finance practice has been built around the firm’s strong private equity group in the City, having worked on the financing of deals for Freshfields’ longstanding clients BC Partners and Permira.

Frost spent seven years in Freshfields’ German practice and led on a €10bn restructuring of luxury car maker Porsche in 2009. On his return to London Frost retained a key role in developing the firm’s practice in Eastern Europe, advising Czech investment company PFF Group on the financing of its €2.5bn purchase of phone network O2’s Czech business from Telefónica in 2013.

Dunbar, a corporate lawyer who handles M&A for private equity and special situations funds, also joins Vinson & Elkins’ London office as a partner. He departs Cadwalader just 13 months after being made a partner at the firm.

Dunbar started his career at Slaughter and May before joining Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in 2006. He has also spent time on secondment at private equity house TPG Capital.

The hires come as Vinson & Elkins makes a renewed push on the London market, moving into new offices in the Walkie Talkie earlier this month.

Vinson & Elkins co-head of private equity Keith Fullenweider said: ‘Growing our London private equity practice is a key element of the firm’s strategy, and Paul fits in perfectly with our team and culture.’

The battle for private equity talent in the City continues, with Mayer Brown sealing the arrival of Reed Smith’s Europe head of private equity Perry Yam earlier this week, and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Proskauer Rose, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, White & Case and Kirkland & Ellis all growing their teams after making high profile hires last year.

Read more about the London private equity market in the feature: ‘ABC – the brutally simple world of a private equity lawyer.’

Legal Business

‘We don’t try and be all things to all people’: Vinson & Elkins London head talks staying focused


Vinson & Elkins London managing partner Alexander Msimang talks to Legal Business about how the firm has opted not to invest outside of its core sectors and geographic locations.

How important is international expansion to the firm’s strategy for its London office?

Having a specific focus on key areas and sectors is obviously important, and for us in London that means energy, infrastructure, telecoms and finance, and we don’t try and be all things to all people. We know what we are and we understand our strengths.  We take a very cautious and careful approach to how we do things and have no interest in being a firm that has offices in most jurisdictions around the world.

But we do plan to grow, but in a steady way, and by expanding the areas in which we are already strong rather than by bolting on lots of new practices or departments. We have signed a new 20-year lease at the Walkie Talkie building in Fenchurch Street, which can accommodate up to 75-80 lawyers, and will be moving next year. 

How has Europe/the UK been for the firm in the past year?

As far as we can tell, we are the oldest energy-focused firm in the UK and London is a huge geographical focus for the firm. Nearly a third of our London lawyers handle disputes with all the rest divided between energy transactions and projects, finance, private equity and tax. We had a record year in gross turnover last year and expect to be up this year as well. In many ways we have been fortunate, because the energy sector has to stay active regardless of economic conditions, and we have not had lots of European offices to worry about, given the slowdown in Europe.

What other regions are of current interest?

We are interested in Africa – predominantly for natural resources, upstream oil and gas, mid-stream energy and telecoms. We have been doing African oil and gas and power deals for decades, but much of the capital in that region flows from the oil and gas sector and straight into the telecoms industry, so telecoms is a sector that is currently attracting a lot of investment, including from private equity. Other areas of interest include Latin America, the Middle East and Asia – and North America is especially interesting for the firm because of the energy boom that has been happening there.

The firm closed its Shanghai office in China in July 2013 to increase focus on the Beijing and Hong Kong offices. Over a year on, how has this turned out?

Our China clients tend to be based in Beijing or Hong Kong, but there is no doubt that Chinese activity has slowed, not just for us, but across the market generally. But in the energy space there has been a shift from China activity to the Americas, particularly North America, and that upturn has had a positive impact on pretty much all our US practice areas.

Who is your competition?

Our competition in the US includes Latham & Watkins, Baker Botts, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and Kirkland & Ellis, among others. In Asia, the competition includes Freshfields and the rest of the Magic Circle, while in the UK our main competitors are again the magic circle plus the other firms with energy practices, like Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, Norton Rose Fulbright and Dentons.’

Vinson & Elkins’ revenues increased 6% to $630.5m in 2013, after falling 3% in 2012 to $592.2m. Profit per equity partner stood at $1.7m in 2013, up 16% on the previous year.

Legal Business

Vinson & Elkins snatches BLP arbitration partner ahead of Panama Canal dispute


Berwin Leighton Paisner arbitration partner Amir Ghaffari has switched to Vinson & Elkins as the firm looks to gear up for an International Chamber of Commerce arbitration over the standoff between contractors and authorities concerning a historic expansion of the Panama Canal.

Ghaffari, who specialises in construction disputes and has a strong client base in the Middle East, will split his time between London and Dubai, where he becomes the firm’s first fully fledged arbitration partner. Vinson & Elkins has three office across the Middle East – in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Dubai – that have to date focused on transactions.

His addition adds to the firm’s disputes capability in London which has become the centre of the practice since a strategy was put in place to grow its arbitration base three years ago. The firm is preparing for the next phase of the dispute between the Panama Canal Authority and a Spanish-led consortium over cost overruns and delays to the $5.2bn expansion project.

Spin out disputes are expected to be filed which would involve most, if not all, of the firm’s London arbitration partners alongside lead partner Nick Henchie, who carried across his relationship with PCA when he arrived from Mayer Brown to head of the firm’s international construction group in 2010.

Ghaffari’s arrival comes a year after Vinson & Elkins secured the hire of investment arbitration partner George Burn from Dentons. Head of V&E’s international dispute resolution practice, James Loftis, said: ‘Amir brings the right combination of legal skill, advocacy experience and diplomacy during a time when the importance and the complexity of international disputes has grown in recent years. Amir has worked for several years with one of the best of the international arbitration bar and we are pleased to have him as part of a team that offers a unique understanding of the regions of the world where our clients operate.”

Ghaffari added: ‘I’m thrilled to be part of a team that is handling some of the most important disputes in the energy and infrastructure space. V&E offers a vast global reach and depth of knowledge in handling disputes, especially in key international markets and industries, such as energy where the firm has a proven track record and offers deep, historical ties.’

To read Legal Business’ analysis of global arbitration click here.