“Watch this area”: Simpson Thacher denies a cautious status with regards to European restructuring and antitrust measures
Those familiar with the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett approach will hardly know what hit them this month when the normally conservative New York outfit ushered in a European restructuring practice and announced a Brussels office within days.
The addition of a London restructuring practice for Europe is a coup, as it does at a time when market commentators are predicting an increase in distressed transactions due to the coronavirus downturn. Perhaps more importantly, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s move with Adam Gallagher withholds one of the most influential partners in its heavyweight restructuring team. Gallagher has been a partner since 2007 and is supported by James Watson, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis since 2017 and another Freshfields alumnus.
It was followed by the news that Simpson Thacher would open an office in Brussels after Brexit in order to benefit from customer demand in the region and the increased regulatory challenges associated with it. In January, the company hired Antonio Bavasso, Allen & Overys co-head of global antitrust law and co-head of telecommunications, media and technology, with its London antitrust and trade regulation practice. He was qualified in the UK and Italy and had been with Magic Circle for nearly 24 years. He started at Simpson Thacher this week.
Law firm executives may understandably be reluctant to shout their good performances from the rooftops like in previous years – it’s not difficult to look deaf to such things while much of the world is still affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, Simpson Thacher has given cause for calm as he increased London sales by an impressive 14% from $ 200.6 million in 2019 to $ 232 million, reflecting fund outperformance and leveraged finance practices is due.
These recent hires bring the number of side panels to six in less than a year, including tax partner Yash Rupal of Linklaters in May 2020, corporate partner James Howe of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in August 2020, and regulatory partner Owen Lysak of Clifford Chance Jahr .
Speaking to Legal Business, London managing partner Jason Glover (pictured) acknowledges the conservative reputation but insists he won’t hire unless the bottom line is additive and only serves to hurt profitability . He is optimistic about the movements: “The good thing is that each of the side pieces that we chose were initiated and targeted by us. We manage to reach the people we target – they are our first choice.
‘There is usually a pull factor and a push factor. There was a financial pull factor here, but no push factor. The people we hired didn’t want to leave their companies. ‘
Rising to the challenge, Glover notes that the company began creating a restructuring practice back in November 2019. The process requires extensive market research with an outside company to understand the market and identify the right players.
Commenting on the rationale for the European restructuring practice, Glover said, “In the US we have good, albeit small, restructuring practice with four partners focused on the debtor / creditor side, but we are not an established player. There is a desire to create a top 3 player for the restructuring. We are ambitious and strive for a scale in Europe with five to seven partners over time. It will act as a catalyst for potential growth in the US. ‘
He firmly believes that the Brussels office is antitrust oriented and will not be the start of a Europe-wide operation. “It was clear that we couldn’t just do this from London to work effectively with EU antitrust law. In time we will have two or three partners and a total of ten people in Brussels. ‘
And all in all, the streak of acquisitions should continue. Bottom line Glover: ‘We always strive to hire great talent when it’s additive and offer opportunities for internal candidates. In addition to the side panels, we have gained three people as partners. We definitely plan to expand the restructuring practice. Take a look at this area. ‘