Legal Business

Weil completes withdrawal from CEE as Warsaw office breaks away

Weil completes withdrawal from CEE as Warsaw office breaks away

Weil, Gotshal & Manges is winding down its once-potent Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) operations, with its 80-strong Polish team setting up an independent firm.

Warsaw co-managing partners Pawel Rymarz and Pawel Zdort will launch Rymarz Zdort in January next year, bringing to an end Weil’s presence in the country after 29 years.

The outpost was the New York-bred firm’s last remaining CEE office after its 11-lawyer Prague team spun off one year ago and its 20-strong Hungarian office joined Bird & Bird in January 2018.

Weil’s Warsaw office opened in 1991 and built its reputation working on several of the largest M&A deals and equity capital markets transactions in the region.

‘Most of the premiere international law firms struggle in Poland with local clients as they cannot be competitive on pricing,’ Zdort told Legal Business. ‘We have always had a very strong local client base and therefore need to be more flexible and innovative in that respect. We have lots of friends at Weil. There is nothing that would prevent us from co-operating, as long as Weil requires legal services in Poland and vice versa.’

The office turns over around $20m. It expanded its tax practice over the summer with a team from Deloitte Legal and plans to grow further with a focus on areas including real estate, white collar and restructuring.

International firms with a presence in Poland include Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Allen & Overy and White & Case. Zdort added: ‘International firms have always been more visible and reputable on the Polish transactional market. The market is lacking a premiere Polish transactional law firm. Our ambition is to be one.’

Weil’s London managing partner Mike Francies (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘It will be good for us and it will be good for them. Prague has gone from strength to strength as an independent firm, Budapest has gone from strength to strength under Bird & Bird. We still work with them, we still have some clients in common. It’s what’s best for those local offices and what’s best for us.’

While the firm has been withdrawing from CEE, it has recently been unusually active in the London lateral market, making five hires this year including restructuring partner Neil Devaney from Akin Gump, Linklaters M&A star David Avery-Gee, banking partner Paul Stewart from Ashurst, private equity partner Mark Thompson from Sidley and tax partner Jenny Doak from Vinson & Elkins. It also promoted four City lawyers to the partnership in its latest, 16-strong promotion round.

Weil’s latest set of financial results showed relatively muted global revenue growth of 5% from $1.39bn to $1.46bn in 2018. Profit per equity partner also rose 5% to $3.83m.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Weil makes up four in the City as women dominate global promotions for the first time

Weil makes up four in the City as women dominate global promotions for the first time

In an industry struggling to make good on long-held promises to achieve diversity at the partnership level, Weil, Gotshal & Manges has gone against the grain by making up more women than men to partner for the first time in its latest round.

The firm promoted 16 globally, of which nine new partners were women and seven men. Executive partner Barry Wolf claimed the latest round was the most diverse in the firm’s history.

It is also a step up on last year’s investment in 11 partners globally, of which four were women, while the four new partners in the City exceeded the three promoted last year and the one female London partner this year matched last year’s figure.

The four new City partners are Lewis Blakey (private equity), Clare Cottle (business finance & restructuring), Aron Joy (tax) and Marc Schubert (private funds).

Mike Francies, managing partner of Weil’s London office, told Legal Business: ‘Barry Wolf, the firm leadership and myself in London are very keen on promoting women and inclusion generally and we need to make sure these rounds of diverse promotions continue.  This promotion round is quite diverse, across seven offices, and I am obviously very pleased with our four new partners in London.’

The other promotions spanned corporate, litigation, business finance & restructuring, tax and executive compensation & benefits in Dallas, Frankfurt, Houston, New York, Silicon Valley and Washington DC.

Weil has also recently been unusually active in the London lateral market, making five hires this year including restructuring partner Neil Devaney from Akin Gump, Linklaters M&A star David Avery-Gee, banking partner Paul Stewart from Ashurst, private equity partner Mark Thompson from Sidley and tax partner Jenny Doak from Vinson & Elkins.

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Revolving doors: City hires aplenty as Goodwin adds Kirkland PE player and Weil makes restructuring lateral

Revolving doors: City hires aplenty as Goodwin adds Kirkland PE player and Weil makes restructuring lateral

Leading US firms have continued to ramp up lateral recruitment in London as Goodwin Procter hired a private equity partner from Kirkland & Ellis and Weil, Gotshal & Manges added to its restructuring bench.

Goodwin hired Kirkland partner Carl Bradshaw to its private equity group. Bradshaw focuses on cross-border private equity deals and has worked on deals including leveraged buyouts, carve-outs, public-to-privates, consortium deals and co-investments.

Goodwin private equity partner Richard Lever told Legal Business: ‘The profile and industry-focus of [Bradshaw’s] client base is entirely consistent with our aim to be the premium mid-market private equity practice in the City operating with clients at the intersection of capital and innovation. We are seeing particular activity in the life sciences, tech – particularly fintech – and business services sectors.’

Meanwhile, Weil added restructuring partner Neil Devaney to its business finance & restructuring practice from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He has experience in cross-border finance, restructuring and insolvency and advises clients on complex, high-value debt restructurings.

Weil managing partner Mike Francies commented: ‘Neil will work closely with our highly regarded team in London and other senior business finance & restructuring leaders around the world to continue to build out our platform in Europe and globally.’

Elsewhere, Taylor Wessing has hired partner Liz Wilson to its tax and incentives practice in London. She joined from Squire Patton Boggs where she was a director. She has experience working on cross-border tax issues within corporate transactions, private equity, commercial agreements, real estate and construction transactions, projects and debt finance.

Taylor Wessing managing director Shane Gleghorn commented: ‘Liz’s appointment enhances our capability, providing more focus for clients and the taxation issues that need to be considered across all of their deals and investments.’

Ashfords has appointed partner Jocelyn Ormond from Simmons & Simmons to its corporate team in its Bristol office. Ormond has experience in advising private equity, venture capital and other funds, public and private companies on mergers & acquisitions, joint ventures, minority investments and equity fundraisings. He will be leading the firm’s focus on healthcare and developing a digital health practice.

Ashfords partner and head of the technology sector and Bristol office Chris Dyson told Legal Business: ‘We see digital health as being an increasingly important focus in the years to come so adding Jocelyn’s specialism to our team puts us in a great position to support this and the wider healthcare market.’

Clyde & Co, meanwhile, hired Janis Meyer, Anthony Davis and Rick Supple from Hinshaw & Culbertson to form part of Clydes’ law firm liability, regulatory and investigations group in New York. Meyer and Davis advise on legal ethics, risk management while Supple is a trial defence lawyer. Clydes launched in New York in 2006 and the latest expansion follows the hiring of a 90-member insurance and litigation team from Sedgwick in December 2017.

Clydes head of the law firm liability, regulatory and investigations group Richard Harrison commented: ‘As law firms have globalised, so too have their legal needs, which is why adding this well respected US team, whom we know well and have worked with for a number of years, is a significant move for us and is part of our strategy of expanding our global advisory and defence capabilities for law firms.’

Finally, Pinsent Masons has hired real estate partner Denis Charles from DLA Piper to its Paris office. The hire follows that of tax and real estate partner Eglantine Lioret and her team who joined the firm’s Paris office in February this year.

Head of real estate at Pinsents, James Crookes, told Legal Business: ‘The appointment of Denis and Elodie is another important step in the growth of our international real estate sector, as we respond to increasing client demand for an integrated, innovative and consistent approach to real estate legal services across a number of key jurisdictions in Europe – one of which is France.’

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Double blow for Magic Circle as US leaders Weil and Skadden secure M&A veterans

Double blow for Magic Circle as US leaders Weil and Skadden secure M&A veterans

Leading US firms continue to dominate the London recruitment market with significant appointments from the Magic Circle, as Weil, Gotshal & Manges hired Linklaters’ highly-rated M&A partner David Avery-Gee (pictured) shortly after Allen & Overy (A&O) saw corporate pair Simon Toms and George Knighton jump ship to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The hire of Avery-Gee is a coup for Weil, which has struggled against more potent US rivals in recent years in London. The office has had setbacks in corporate, including the loss of London managing partner Mike Francies’ protégé Samantha McGonigle, who left after 13 years to co-found a growth fund in February.

Legal Business

Weil’s City office sees 23% profit hike as top-earning partner takes home £1.7m

Weil’s City office sees 23% profit hike as top-earning partner takes home £1.7m

The City office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges increased revenue 15% from £126.1m to top £144.8m during 2018, the firm’s recent LLP accounts show.

Operating profit surged 23% to reach £70m as the partner profit pool increased 27% from £51.8m to hit £66m in the 2018 financial year. The City office’s top-earning partner took home £1.72m on the back of the profit increase, a 41% increase on the previous year.

The solid financial performance comes in spite of concerted efforts to grow out the London office largely failing to gain momentum, with the exception of the marquee hire of Linklaters’ M&A star David Avery-Gee earlier this week.

Avery-Gee’s hire will be a significant shot in the arm for Weil’s underweight corporate bench and a long overdue kick-start for its M&A ambitions. The office has had notable setbacks in corporate, including the loss of London managing partner Mike Francies’ protégé Samantha McGonigle, who left after 13 years to co-found a growth fund in February. It also lost well-regarded head of banking, Mark Donald, to White & Case in 2018.

The City office has some way to go to address the relatively stunted growth trajectory compared with some of its US-based contemporaries in London. At the end of last year, Weil had 33 partners and 179 fee-earners, a position which has seen it add only 26% to its headcount in the space of five years. Nevertheless, it has outstripped relatively muted global revenue growth of 5% from $1.39bn to $1.46bn in 2018.

Nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

 

Legal Business

Big deal: Weil makes symbolic London play with hire of Linklaters M&A star Avery-Gee

Big deal: Weil makes symbolic London play with hire of Linklaters M&A star Avery-Gee

In a rare marquee hire for Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Linklaters M&A star David Avery-Gee (pictured) is joining the US firm’s City office.

The hire is a standout move for Weil, which has failed to gain meaningful traction on lofty ambitions to bolster its corporate practice in London to support the office’s managing partner, Mike Francies, who has been acting for some time as the firm’s chief M&A practitioner.

A Linklaters lifer, Avery-Gee has been at the Magic Circle firm for 20 years, advising on complex domestic and cross-border M&A transactions and IPOs in sectors including natural resources, energy and financial services.

A protégé of senior partner Charlie Jacobs, he made partner in 2011 and also had under his belt a valuable stint on the M&A team of the investment banking division of Morgan Stanley from 2005 to 2006.

Michael Aiello, chairman of Weil’s global corporate department said: ‘David’s client-centric approach combined with his technical and commercial skills make him a perfect addition to the leadership of our global M&A boardroom practice.’

Avery-Gee had been involved in running Linklaters’ mining practice and managed several of the firm’s relationships with a number of major Japanese clients.  He was also head of the firm’s Israel practice and headed a group of partners advising clients on the consequences of the UK’s referendum decision to leave the European Union.

He has counted among his key clients Glencore, advising on such deals as its merger with Xstrata, the disposal of Las Bambas, the offer for Volcan, the acquisition of Contonga and the disposal by Glencore of 50% of the Glencore agribusiness to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCIMC).

Other mandates include ESCO, the US mining services company, on its acquisition by Weir Group; US fund manager Alinda on its acquisition of EmiTel, the Polish telecoms infrastructure company and takeover of Energy Assets Group, a UK metering business.

Avery-Gee has also acted on IPOs including the listing of Glencore on the London and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges and EVRAZ to become members of the FTSE 100.

He was interviewed for Legal Business’ ‘Rising Star’ section in 2016 and conveyed a particularly upbeat message about his life-long firm: ‘There is a feeling that we have a golden generation at Linklaters. A really strong group like Matt Bland, Simon Branigan and Dan Schuster-Woldan. Right now we have a confidence and togetherness here. We’re all very determined and we have grown up together and are very excited about where we can go with the practice.’

A spokesperson for Linklaters said: ‘We can confirm that David Avery Gee is leaving the firm after 20 years over which time he has made a valued contribution. He has been offered an opportunity that we could not give him at this time and he leaves as a friend with our best wishes.’

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Slaughters leads on Hong Kong’s £32bn LSE bid as US firms tap into mid-market

Dealwatch: Slaughters leads on Hong Kong’s £32bn LSE bid as US firms tap into mid-market

Strategic deals have continued into September after a busy summer, with firms rallying to get deals over the line before a Brexit cliff-edge threatens to become a reality.

Slaughter and May has landed a mandate to advise Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) on a bid which, if successful, would see it acquire the London Stock Exchange (LSE) for £32bn. Partner David Watkins is leading the Slaughters team.

The proposed transaction has already sparked controversy around competition concerns as well as HKEX’s condition that any takeover would be conditional on LSE scrapping its planned $27bn acquisition of financial data business Refinitiv, a deal that was abnnounced in July.

The board of LSE yesterday (11 September) issued a statement describing the proposed acquisition by HKEX as ‘unsolicited, preliminary and highly conditional,’ confirming it continued to make good progress on the Refinitiv deal. A Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer team led by partners Andrew Hutchings and Stephen Hewes are advising LSE on the Refinitiv deal and is likely to be mandated on this latest transaction.

Meanwhile Weil, Gotshal & Manges is advising Campbell’s Soup Company on the sale of its European chips business which includes Kettle Chips and Metcalfe’s skinny popcorn to Dublin-based Valeo Foods for $80m.

The Weil team was led by corporate partners Michael Aiello, James Harvey and Mike Francies. Partners Joe Pari, Chayim Neubort and Oliver Walker are advising on the tax while partner Barry Fishley is advising on intellectual property and technology.

CapVest and its portfolio company Valeo Foods were advised by a Willkie Farr & Gallagher team led by David Arnold and included associates Andrew Gray, Amelia Doughty, Michael Grant and Gabriella Denlew. Partner Jane Scobie led on the tax aspects.

In 2017, Campbell’s bought Kettle Chips producer Snyder’s-Lane for $4.87bn. The transaction is part of the company’s strategy to focus on its core products of canned soup and snacks. This deal follows Campbell’s sale of Danish manufacturer of baked snacks Kelsen Group to Belgian holding company CTH Invest for $300m.

Campbell’s will retain the Kettle brand business in the US and other area, while Valeo takes control of its UK, Europe and Middle East operation.

Weil has advised Campbell’s on a number of transactions this year, namely the recent sale of KKR to Arnott’s. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, regulatory approvals and consultations and is expected to close at the end of this year.

Elsewhere, Paul Hastings advised private equity firm Oakley Capital on its investment in the Italian high-end homeware business Alessi.

The Paul Hastings team was led by Anu Balasubramanian and included corporate associates David Prowse and Aimée Fabri from the London office and Juljan Puna and Giulia Fiorelli from the Milan office while Gatti Pavesi Bianchi advised on the financing aspects of the transaction.

Balasubramanian told Legal Business: ‘Given the macroeconomic climate in Europe and the political environment across the board with Brexit, I think there is concern that both the capital line as well as potential opportunities may not dry up necessarily but everything is going to potentially become a little more difficult. People are trying to get deals over the line which is probably why we had the busiest summer.’

Alessi was advised by a team from Italian firm Gattai, Minoli, Agostinelli Partners led by corporate partner Bruno Gattai and includes partners Federico BalRiccardo Agostinelli, Andrea Taurozzi and associates Jacopo Bennard and Jacopo Ceccherini.

Paul Hastings has advised Oakley Capital on its acquisition of EkonVideotel and Seagull as well as their joint venture with Admiral and Mapfre to acquire Rastreator and Acierto.

muna.abdi@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Revolving doors: City move for Weil as HSF adds duo in South Africa

Revolving doors: City move for Weil as HSF adds duo in South Africa

In a quiet week for lateral recruitment, Weil, Gotshal & Manges hired from Ashurst in the City as other firms made notable moves further abroad.

In London, Weil expanded its banking and finance practice with the hire of Paul Stewart, currently at Ashurst. Stewart has experience in domestic and international finance transactions as well as leveraged acquisition finance and debt restructuring.

Weil London managing partner Mike Francies (pictured) commented: ‘We are delighted to have recruited someone of Paul’s caliber. His expertise and diverse lender practice are a perfect match for our market leading leveraged finance team.’

Meanwhile in South Africa, Herbert Smith Freehills added two partners and their teams to its Johannesburg office, for a total of 13 hires.

The hires included Nick Altini from Baker McKenzie, where he headed the firm’s competition practice, as well as corporate transactions partner Ross Lomax from Norton Rose Fulbright, who joins next month. HSF’s Johannesburg office now has three corporate partners and two competition partners.

Corporate partner Rudolph Du Plessis told Legal Business: ‘Towards the end of 2018, there was a dip from an M&A point of view but we’re expecting it to pick up in 2019. We have seen, in the first part of 2019, an increase on transactions both inbound and outbound. With an enhanced M&A activity there will be enhanced competition activity and there seems to be quite a lot of movement on the African continent in respects to competition law.’

Elsewhere, Pinsent Masons added to its life sciences and technology practice in Dublin with the hire of Michael Finn, who joins from Matheson. Finn, who led Matheson’s IT disputes group and established its life sciences regulatory and litigation practice, has experience in advising technology companies on life sciences and medical device laws, as well as IP litigation and the defence of product liability litigation.

Clare Tunstall, head of life sciences at Pinsent Masons said: ‘Pinsent Masons has a pan European team of lawyers specialising in life sciences and healthcare who advise across a range of IP, transactional and regulatory matters and Michael’s stellar reputation and experience makes him a fantastic addition to our team.’

Finally, Simmons and Simmons has hired George Vlavianos to its dispute resolutions practice in Doha, Qatar. Vlavianos joins from Bennett Jones and has a particular focus on complex energy and construction disputes with experience in advising owners, contractors and sub-contractors on contractual issues.

muna.abdi@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Globetrotters in Europe: Dentons and White & Case expand operations as Weil scales back in CEE again

Globetrotters in Europe: Dentons and White & Case expand operations as Weil scales back in CEE again

Global players scaled up their investment in continental Europe this autumn, with Dentons launching its fourth German base and White & Case growing its French team. Meanwhile, Weil, Gotshal & Manges has shut its doors in Prague, its second office closure in central and eastern Europe (CEE) in 2018.

Dentons’ fast-growing German branch hired Taylor Wessing’s former head of competition, EU and trade, Andreas Haak, and employment partner Sascha Grosjean to lead the opening of the new outpost in Düsseldorf in January 2019. Germany managing partner Andreas Ziegenhagen told Legal Business the firm aims to have around 30 lawyers in the city in Germany’s industrial heartland, bringing the total headcount in the country to over 200.

Legal Business

Another CEE closure for Weil Gotshal as Prague team launches independent firm

Another CEE closure for Weil Gotshal as Prague team launches independent firm

Weil, Gotshal & Manges is continuing to scale back its once-potent central and eastern Europe (CEE) operations with its entire Czech Republic-based team set to spin off at the end of the year.

The New York firm confirmed today (27 November) that veteran Prague managing partner Karel Muzikář will quit after more than 25 years to set up an independent shop from 31 December alongside fellow partners Karel Drevinek, Petr Severa and Karolina Horakova.

Once the jewel in the crown of Weil’s regional operations in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the now 11-strong Prague team is to leave the firm less than a year after its 20-lawyer Budapest office joined Bird & Bird , leaving Warsaw as the firm’s only office in CEE.

Weil’s chair and executive partner Barry Wolf said the move ‘offers both the US and Czech practices the freedom and flexibility to address issues faced by them in the different business environments in which they operate‘, adding the two firms could ‘continue to work with each other when needed for client relationships‘.

The firm also recently pulled out of the Middle East, shutting its Dubai office last year.

The closures come despite Weil posting satisfactory financial results this year, its global profit per equity partner rising 18% to $3.64m amid a 10% hike in turnover to $1.39bn in 2017.

Alongside London, which last year grew revenues 33% to $165.4m, Weil has a well-regarded private equity Paris operation and two German bases in Munich and Frankfurt in western Europe.

Yet the closures in CEE are highly significant for a firm that was once one of the top international brands in the region.

Marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk