Legal Business

White & Case doubles up in the City in continued disputes drive

White & Case doubles up in the City in continued disputes drive

White & Case is continuing its aggressive City expansion with two disputes hires, the firm’s eighth and ninth laterals this year.

Contentious construction and engineering partner David Robertson is joining White & Case’s arbitration team from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP), while Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft litigation partner Steven Baker joins the firm’s commercial litigation practice.

Robertson joined legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner in 2013, and has experience acting on major construction, energy and infrastructure projects, while Baker acts on technology disputes, a sector White & Case has highlighted for growth.

Dipen Sabharwal, regional section head of EMEA disputes, told Legal Business: ‘Disputes in London is a core part of our 2020 strategy, and these two hires ticked all the boxes.’

The firm’s much-touted 2020 strategy is about going ‘toe to toe with the Magic Circle’. London-based executive committee member Oliver Brettle, the firm’s former City office head, commented: ‘As we continue to take the fight to the Magic Circle, the arrival of leading partners such as Steven and David propels us forward.’

The headline hires follow that of Chris Brennan’s arrival at the firm in June, with the experienced litigator arriving from Addleshaw Goddard. The latest arrivals take White & Case’s City lateral recruitment count up to nine this year.

Sabharwal added that more disputes hires would be needed if the firm is to make good on its commitment to surpass the City elite: ‘We’re at the halfway mark of our 2020 strategy and we’re not there yet, but it’s a continuing ambition of ours.’

Meanwhile, last month White & Case announced the opening of a new office in Chicago, as the firm continued its dynamic growth drive globally.

Legal Business

Their kind of town: White & Case hires in Chicago as firm launches in the Windy City

Their kind of town: White & Case hires in Chicago as firm launches in the Windy City

More than 100 lawyers are eventually expected to join the new office

White & Case is continuing its dynamic growth drive by launching an office in Chicago, spearheaded by Jason Zakia, the head of its disputes practice in the Americas.

Legal Business

Ashurst taps Mayer Brown’s City office in disputes drive as White & Case adds Macfarlanes rising deal star Jones

Ashurst taps Mayer Brown’s City office in disputes drive as White & Case adds Macfarlanes rising deal star Jones

The City lateral market has kicked off after an uncharacteristic hiatus in recent weeks, seeing Ashurst recruit disputes partner Tom Duncan from Mayer Brown as Macfarlanes loses private equity rising star Emmie Jones to White & Case’s relentless hiring spree.

Macfarlanes-bred Jones, who featured in Legal Business’ analysis on the female City private equity players to watch in the mid-tier, was made up to partner in 2013. She has joined White & Case’s global M&A and private equity industry group as the firm sallies forth with its 2020 strategy, which includes going ‘toe-to-toe’ with the Magic Circle in London, led by erstwhile London executive partner Oliver Brettle.

Brettle, partner and member of the firm’s global executive committee, commented: ‘Our 2020 strategy includes a focus on profitable growth in London, in the global private equity industry and in mergers and acquisitions. The arrival of Emmie represents clear further progress in all three areas.’

John Reiss, head of White & Case’s global M&A practice, added: ‘The addition of Emmie sends a clear message to the market that we’re determined to continue growing our role advising the leading private equity firms and their portfolio companies on their most important, complex, cross-border matters.’

Jones has advised clients on the structuring, negotiation and execution of complex, cross-border private equity transactions across multiple sectors. She has totted up more than 150 deals, in both traditional private equity and advising portfolio companies, with a combined enterprise value of £10bn.

She has more than 13 years of experience advising private equity sponsors, corporates and management teams on acquisitions, disposals, management equity deals and distressed situations.

M&A partner John Cunningham said that Jones’ client relationships are an exciting fit with the firm’s client portfolio and the hire will play an important role in the ongoing institutionalisation and growth of the firm’s client base.

White & Case bolstered this same team as recently as March with the hire of former Jones Day partner Mike Weir. Jones is the seventh lateral in London so far this year, in addition to seven internal partner promotions in January.

City firm Ashurst, meanwhile, is upping its dispute resolution game in London with Tom Duncan, who has been a partner in Mayer Brown’s construction and engineering and international arbitration groups since 2012. He advises on all aspects of construction and engineering law with a focus on complex disputes. He has acted for clients in a number of different jurisdictions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia and has broad experience in arbitrations, adjudications and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
This is the seventh dispute resolution partner hire for the firm this year, having recently appointed partners David Wilkinson and Alison Hardy in London, Emmanuelle Cabrol and Hortense de Roux in Paris, Nicolas Nohlen in Frankfurt and Melanie McKean in Canberra.

Simon Bromwich, head of Ashurst’s global dispute resolution practice, said: ‘Both in the UK and across our offices we are continuing to see high levels of infrastructure and construction disputes. These cases typically involve our growing and highly rated international arbitration team. I am confident that [Tom] will help our global team to capitalise further on the major opportunities in the market.’

Duncan added: ‘The strength of Ashurst’s credentials and client base in the infrastructure and construction sectors, together with its significant international network, provide an ideal basis to help develop Ashurst’s excellent disputes practice in those sectors. I have been impressed by the quality of the firm’s infrastructure and construction disputes capability and I am looking forward to working with the team.’

Legal Business

A&O lures FinReg head Penn back from Cleary as White & Case makes City funds play with partner hire

A&O lures FinReg head Penn back from Cleary as White & Case makes City funds play with partner hire

In a surprise move, Allen & Overy (A&O) has taken back its erstwhile financial services regulation head Bob Penn from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton after only two years away, while White & Case eyes the lucrative funds market with the addition of a new partner to its global banking practice in London.

Penn’s departure in April 2016 from A&O after 17 years to Cleary was a rare high-profile exit for the Magic Circle firm and a rarer-still  acquisition for Wall Street-bred Cleary.

He had been A&O’s head of non-contentious financial services regulation practice and is re-joining the firm as a partner. His start date is yet to be confirmed.

Penn joined A&O in 1999 and was made up to partner in 2007. His experience covers the full range of non-contentious financial services regulation, advising banks, asset managers, market infrastructure providers and financial institutions on national and international regulation.

With Penn’s return, the Magic Circle firm will have six regulatory partners in London, having hired Herbert Smith Freehills partner Nick Bradbury in 2016 and fintech specialist Ben Regnard-Weinrabe from the London arm of Paul Hastings earlier this year.

The financial services regulatory practice in London is led by Damian Carolan, with partners Etay Katz and Kate Sumpter making up the rest of the team.

Damian Carolan said: ‘[Bob’s] depth of experience is an invaluable addition to our team at a time when the volume, complexity and breadth of financial regulation has increased exponentially.  This is driving continued investment in the team to continue to support our financial services clients in facing sophisticated and evolving challenges.’

A spokesperson for Cleary said: ‘We wish Bob all the best for the future. Our financial services regulatory practice is an important global and cross-border practice. We will continue to support our financial institution clients across the world, with expertise from our offices in the Americas, Asia, London and the rest of Europe.’

Meanwhile, White & Case is persevering with its prolific recruitment drive with the addition of London partner Shane McDonald, who was previously senior vice president at Hudson Advisors, a fund manager with links to private equity firm Lone Star Funds.

At Hudson he was responsible for the financing of a large number of investments, including the acquisitions of non-performing loan portfolios and private equity portfolio companies.

Dual-qualified to practise in England and Australia, he was previously an associate at Ropes & Gray and, before that, at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Eric Leicht, head of White & Case’s global banking practice, said: ‘White & Case offers sophisticated sponsors and financial institutions a compelling proposition as counsel of choice for leveraged finance transactions. Clients benefit from our unique blend of US, UK and European law capabilities across our established EMEA network, including our strength in “US products” such as high yield and covenant-lite Term Loan Bs.  Shane’s arrival supports our ambition to continue building on our reputation as preeminent leveraged finance counsel.’

Oliver Brettle, London-based member of White & Case’s global executive committee, said: ‘Our 2020 strategy includes a focus on profitable growth in London, and in the global financial institutions and private equity industries. Shane’s arrival propels us forward in all three areas, and he joins a strong banking team in both London and globally.’

Legal Business

White & Case sets ambitious Chicago growth plans after opening office with corporate and white collar hires

White & Case sets ambitious Chicago growth plans after opening office with corporate and white collar hires

White & Case is continuing its dynamic growth drive apace as the US vanguard opens an office in Chicago to be spearheaded by Jason Zakia, the head of its disputes practice in the Americas.

The firm has nailed its colours to the mast with a pair of laterals in corporate and white collar, in the form of Gary Silverman and Carolyn Gurland, but plans to expand to more than 100 lawyers in short time.

Zakia, who joined White & Case as an associate in 2003 from Chicago-bred rival Kirkland & Ellis, is relocating to the Windy City from the firm’s Miami office. The new office is part of the firm’s 2020 strategy, which involves targeted, profitable growth, particularly in the US and London, with the aim of cementing a position among the global elite firms.

Silverman is a private equity partner who joins from Greenberg Traurig’s Chicago office where he worked for seven years. Like Zakia, he also has Kirkland pedigree, having worked at that firm for 18 years until 2004. He acts for clients across industries including manufacturing, consumer products, hospitality, life sciences, and media, entertainment and technology.

Gurland is a white collar criminal defense attorney who is returning to White & Case as a partner having worked at the firm’s New York office as an associate. She has been a sole practitioner for the last four years and, before that, served as assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office prosecuting complex, high-profile financial crimes.

The firm’s 2020 strategy is focused on growth in four key industries—financial institutions, private equity, technology and oil & gas—and three key practices—M&A, capital markets and disputes. Oliver Brettle last month stepped down as White & Case’s London executive partner in order to focus on this strategy.

Brettle told Legal Business: ‘The Midwest economy is as big in GDP terms as the UK or France. It’s a real corporate centre that is home to organisations which are already global or have global ambitions. Opening an office in Chicago that appeals to these businesses will, in time, benefit the rest of the firm including EMEA and Asia-Pacific.’

While only three lawyers strong, the Chicago office is intended to grow dramatically. John Reiss, White & Case’s global head of M&A based in New York, said: ‘We expect the office to expand to 100 lawyers and become a full service location over the next couple of years, and we are working actively to accomplish that.’

In February, the firm acted on its strategic ambitions when it launched a four-partner oil and gas office in Houston. James Cuclis joined from fellow US firm Vinson & Elkins to head up the office, Christopher Richardson and Charlie Ofner went over from local Houston outfit Andrews Kurth Kenyon, while Saul Daniel relocated from the firm’s London office.

At the time, Dave Koschik, head of White & Case’s US growth team, said the firm intended to have at least 15 partners and 50 total lawyers in Houston across the core transactional practices of corporate, finance and projects.

Legal Business

White & Case makes another City litigation play with Addleshaw Goddard hire

White & Case makes another City litigation play with Addleshaw Goddard hire

Expansive US firm White & Case is continuing to walk the talk on its going ‘toe to toe with the Magic Circle’ mantra after making another City hire in its litigation practice.

The experienced Chris Brennan is joining White & Case from Addleshaw Goddard, where he headed the firm’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigations and enforcement team and was a partner since 2012. Before that he was head of regulatory at Lloyds Banking Group, general counsel for a global inter-dealer broker and a senior lawyer in the FCA’s enforcement arm.

Brennan is White & Case’s second City litigation lateral hire this year, following the recent recruitment of well-regarded tax litigator Hannah Field-Lowes from Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Brennan joins the firm from next week (4 June).

White & Case partner and EMEA disputes head Charles Balmain told Legal Business: ‘Chris’ hire fits squarely with the firm’s 2020 strategy, an important part of which is to strengthen the firm’s disputes practice in London and across the region. It’s another example of our aim to go toe to toe with the Magic Circle.’

The firm has made five lateral hires in the City this year. Its 2020 strategy, which former London executive Oliver Brettle recently shifted his full attention to after stepping down as London head, is about profitable growth in London with a focus on the global financial institutions industry and in disputes.

An Addleshaws spokesperson said: ‘Chris leaves with our best wishes.  Contentious regulatory work continues to be a key area for investment and our market leading global investigations team, led by Nichola Peters, goes from strength to strength servicing our deep client base.’

Brennan’s departure from Addleshaws follows a spate of hiring at the firm in early 2018, most recently expanding its Asia practice with the hire of Bob Charlton from legacy BLP.

White & Case’s hiring spree, meanwhile, was recently tempered by the departure of highly-rated regulatory lawyer James Greig, who left after just two years for a senior in-house role at banking giant Barclays.

For more on White & Case’s city ambitions read ‘Reborn supremacy – inside the unlikely White & Case revolution.

Legal Business

Deal watch: trio of big-ticket deals highlight frothy market for US and City elite

Deal watch: trio of big-ticket deals highlight frothy market for US and City elite

Barely a City or US firm in London has gone without popping a Champagne cork in recent days as big-ticket deal activity remains frothy, while showing no signs of losing its fizz.

Recent big-ticket deals characterising the market include US tech private equity player Silver Lake’s proposed £2.2bn buyout of ZPG – the parent company of UK property site Zoopla – Cinven’s disposal of its Ufinet Spanish fibre-optic business and the $816m London listing of Avast, the Prague-headquartered cybersecurity heavyweight.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer celebrated a double victory, cropping up on both the Cinven disposal and the ZPG deal. The team, led by partners Adrian Maguire, Victoria Sigeti, Armando Albarrán and Javier Monzón, advised long-standing client Cinven on a deal which saw the private equity firm’s fifth fund sell Ufinet Spain, its Spanish fibre network operator, to a consortium led by Paris-headquartered infrastructure investor Antin Infrastructure Partners.

Herbert Smith Freehills advised Antin with a team lead by Madrid-based corporate partner Pablo García-Nieto, with support from UK-based partner Heather Culshaw. A Madrid-based Clifford Chance team advised the Cinven management. The deal also sees Cinven’s fifth fund sell Ulfinet International, the Latin American operations, to the sixth Cinven fund.

Ufinet provides fibre infrastructure and transmission services to telecom operators in Spain and international markets, with a fibre network spanning more than 66,800 kilometres across two continents. Cinven had acquired Ufinet in June 2014 from Gas Natural Fenosa (GNF), the largest integrated gas and electricity provider in Spain, for €510 million.

Freshfields also won a high-profile mandate advising ZPG plc, the target of Silver Lake’s proposed £2.2bn buyout, with a team led by partners Mark Austin and Piers Prichard Jones. Partners Alice Greenwell and Rod Carlton advised on employment and competition matters respectively.

The deal renews an existing relationship, after the Magic Circle firm advised ZPG on its 2014 initial public offering (IPO). Silver Lake was advised by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, with a team led by M&A partner and Freshfields alumni Ben Spiers, also featuring London partner Clare Gaskell and New York-based partner Michael Wolfson.

Proskauer Rose partners Liam Arthur and Matt Rees advised Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, which is taking a minority stake in the company. Corporate partner Iain Wagstaff at Linklaters advised Canadian pension fund PSP Investments, which is also taking a minority share.

The acquisition – done through a scheme of arrangements which are subject to customary conditions including FCA and European Commission approval – is set to close in the next few months.

ZPG owns and operates UK property brands including Zoopla, uSwitch, Money, PrimeLocation and SmartNewHomes, as well as supplying property data and software providers with products including Hometrack, Calcasa, TechnicWeb, Ravensworth, Alto, Jupix, ExpertAgent, PropertyFile and MoveIT.

White & Case meanwhile has scored a repeat mandate to advise Avast on its premium listing on the London Stock Exchange, a tech float valued at US$816.6 million.

The team was co-led by London partners Ian Bagshaw, Jonathan Parry and Jill Concannon and also included partners Guy Potel, Steven Worthington, Prabhu Narasimhan, Justin Wagstaff and Prague-based partner Jan Andrusko.

The offer, which priced at 250 pence per share, includes gross primary proceeds of around US$200 million and represents 25.3% of the shares in Avast. The mandate is the result of a long-standing relationship, Bagshaw having also led the White & Case team which advised Avast on its $1.3bn acquisition of AVG Technologies in 2016.

In a double win for US high-flyers in the City, Latham & Watkins is advising the underwriters with a team led by London corporate and capital markets partners James Inness and Brett Cassidy.

White & Case’s Parry told Legal Business: ‘Two US heritage firms on a premium London listing of this size is something of a watershed. There is no longer an automatic default to the Magic Circle. The deal is a real endorsement of London as an attractive destination for big tech IPOs. That this IPO launched successfully in such a choppy market is a real achievement for Avast.’

Bagshaw said: ‘Our relationship with Avast has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years. We advised the company on a number of key transactions, including its US$1.3bn acquisition of AVG, the initial private equity investment by Summit Partners in 2010, the minority investment by CVC Capital Partners in 2014 and its recent acquisition of Piriform. Advising Avast on a London IPO of this magnitude and strategic significance has been hugely exciting.’

Legal Business

Brettle bows out as White & Case London head to focus on going toe-to-toe with the Magic Circle

Brettle bows out as White & Case London head to focus on going toe-to-toe with the Magic Circle

Oliver Brettle has stepped down as White & Case’s London executive partner after a decade, with US securities partner Melissa Butler named his successor.

The move comes on the instruction of New York-based chair Hugh Verrier, who asked White & Case stalwart Brettle to concentrate on the firm’s 2020 strategy, which includes competing ‘toe-to-toe’ with the Magic Circle in the City.

An employment lawyer by trade, Brettle joined the firm as a partner from Ashurst in 2001, has headed the US firm’s London office since November 2008 and joined its executive committee in September 2009. He will stay on the executive committee in his strategy-focused role.

US capital markets guru Butler – who took up the role on Tuesday (8 May) – joined White & Case in September 2006 as an associate in London from the now defunct New York firm Thacher, Proffitt & Wood. She was made up to partner in January 2012.

Commenting on the move, Verrier said: ‘I have asked Oliver Brettle in his ongoing role on the executive committee to focus on delivering our 2020 strategy, including global initiatives that support its execution and strengthen the firm’s competitive position vis-à-vis the Magic Circle.’

‘To allow him to dedicate the time needed to drive these important activities, Oliver has stepped down as London office executive partner after nearly ten years in the role, during which time our London office has become an acknowledged market leader. I am proud of our success in London,’ Verrier added.

Brettle said: ‘As a member of the executive committee I look forward to continuing to drive our 2020 strategy globally. In London, that includes cementing our status at the top of the legal market and competing toe-to-toe with the Magic Circle and other elite global firms.

‘Holding the role of London office executive partner has been a wonderful experience and a privilege, working with exceptional lawyers and business services teams who together deliver the highest standard of service to our clients. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Melissa Butler and wish her every success in her role.’

Butler concluded: ‘I’m excited by the opportunity to take on the role of London office executive partner at a time when White & Case’s position in London has never been stronger, with a full service offering and a dedicated team that is trusted by clients to advise on their most significant, complex, cross-border deals and disputes. I look forward to working with Oliver as we continue to drive the London office forward.’

More on White & Case’s unlikely revolution in London can be found here.

Legal Business

Global London comment: Brexit looms but the $20m partner is coming

Global London comment: Brexit looms but the $20m partner is coming

Striking numbers abound in this year’s Global London table, if you are into that kind of thing. The three pace-setting US brands in London – Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis and White & Case – are all generating in the $300m region in the Square Mile, last year saw the first $10m lateral and my back-of-the-envelope scribbling indicates that the top 50 US firms are pulling in around $5bn in the UK.

The market is increasingly now defined by this trio, predictably so in the case of Latham, though City lawyers are still trying to get their heads around the idea of Kirkland and White & Case as mounting a frontal challenge. A few years ago, I’d have been equally sceptical, particularly in the latter’s case, but if there is a glaring hole in the game plan of these two outfits, they are hiding it well. With all three making ground in mainstream transactional work through 2017 and securing significant hires – the idea that certain kinds of M&A will remain the preserve of City advisers over the next three years looks fanciful.

As we went to press Kirkland was expected to soon confirm that it has become the second global law firm after Latham to crack $3bn, with another hike in partner profits that will give it further ammunition for London. Kirkland’s average partner profits for 2017 hit $4.75m, which suggests plateau earnings of more than $12m. And one arbitrator in London at another firm is reputed to have been recently paid considerably north of that figure. The equation of elite law is shifting and faster than many veteran partners can keep up.

Aside from the select group mounting a broad challenge, there are obviously high quality brands like Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett that have forged highly productive operations with lean teams in defined areas.

It is a more mixed picture over the top 50 and there is plenty of drift and inertia across the group – yes, Shearman & Sterling, we are looking at you. Many of the more generalist attempts to create US-owned practices continue to lack momentum.

But the overall direction of travel is clear – US firms are making more inroads and have so far proved remarkably sanguine about the Brexit shadow looming over London. It was another robust year of lateral recruitment, even during a period in which the largest US-born firms are now very active promoters of their own UK partners.

The upbeat assessment by US law firms may well be linked to the fact that areas and clients currently driving their growth – white collar, funds, arbitration, leverage finance – are less impacted by Brexit. Yet chairing a client debate this month, there was certainly a much more downbeat tone on the implications for the City and UK investment of leaving the EU. But Brexit aside, US firms in London are now a one-way-bet.

For more analysis on the leading international firms in London see our White & Case profile, ‘Reborn supremacy’ and our market analysis ‘A Tale of Two Citys’ (£)

Legal Business

‘Investments have come home’: City branches stand out in big year for US players

‘Investments have come home’: City branches stand out in big year for US players

Marco Cillario finds City offices outpacing worldwide growth at many Global London firms

2017 was a boom year for many of the London outposts of US law firms, with several convincingly outpacing their firm’s global performance financially and two passing the $300m mark. And it was not just a frenetic private equity market that boosted the London coffers: many UK teams also picked up headline mandates in areas including disputes and financial restructuring.

White & Case remains the highest-grossing US firm in London thanks to a 13% hike to its top line to $328m in 2017 – a faster growth than its 10% global revenue rise to $1.8bn.