Cravath claims more

Due in part to its work on two private equity listings, the elite corporate law firm has developed a greater interest in private equity.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore's work within the private equity industry is expanding amid an exploding private equity market.

According to Julie Spellman Sweet, a partner in the firm's New York office, Cravath has increasingly found private equity to be ?a very attractive, profitable space.?

Cravath is currently deluged with work brought in as a result of its representation of the underwriters in last month's initial global offering of KKR Private Equity Investors, a vehicle affiliated with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and listed on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange. The investment banks that underwrote that listing were Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley.

According to Sweet, Goldman Sachs first approached Cravath about helping it structure a publicly traded private equity vehicle for KKR because of Cravath's work as issuer's counsel on an earlier IPO success underwritten by Goldman Sachs – the 2005 reorganization of Ripplewood's Japanese private equity fund into an industrial holding company, RHJ International, which was then listed on the Euronext Brussels exchange.

Once Goldman Sachs secured KKR's commitment to do its own public listing, the private equity giant brought law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett into the process.

Cravath has what Sweet describes as an ?under the radar? private equity practice. Although there is no designated private equity division within the law firm, eight partners do work in this area, with Sweet devoting ?almost 100 percent? of her time to the sector.

The firm, which prides itself on remaining relatively small and generalist, has participated in the private equity deal market mostly as counsel in acquisition finance. On the fund-formation side, Cravath has a strong practice in private equity real estate circles.

Cravath's most significant private equity client is Ripplewood Holdings, the New York firm that was an early pursuer of deals in Japan and, more recently, in Egypt.

That said, Cravath low profile within private equity may be about to change if, as many believe, publicly traded private equity vehicles become standard features of the global market.

Loeb hires Mehlman for private equity
Law firm Loeb & Loeb has bolstered its private equity practice with the addition of Barry Mehlman to the firm's corporate department. Mehlman will be based in Loeb & Loeb's New York office. He joins the firm from Pitney Hardin where he was of counsel. Prior to that, Mehlman was a partner in his own law firm, Maloney, Mehlman & Katz, for 11 years. Between 1981 and 1983, he was an attorney for the US Securities and Exchange Commission. At Loeb & Loeb, Mehlman will represent private equity firms in the acquisition, management and exit of middle-market businesses, according to a statement. Loeb & Loeb has 225 attorneys in four US offices.

Linklaters New York trio defects to Bracewell
Bracewell & Giuliani has named three new partners to its New York office – Mark Palmer, Jonathan Gill and Robb Tretter. The three will represent private investment firms on deals. Rudolph Giuliani, senior partner at Bracewell, said in a statement, ?Mark, Jon and Robb bring to Bracewell a solid record of providing M&A and corporate advice to major financial institutions, investment funds and other prominent global organizations.? Palmer worked at Sullivan & Cromwell before joining Linklaters in New York. Gill also followed a similar route. Tretter joined Linklaters from Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Bracewell & Giulliani has additional offices in London, Washington, throughout Texas and in Kazakhstan.

Stroock adds fund formation pro
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan has named Sarah Davidoff a partner in New York. Davidoff joins the firm from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where she was of counsel. She has represented hedge funds and private equity firms in structuring domestic and offshore private investment vehicles. Prior to joining Skadden Arps, Davidoff was an associate at Seward & Kissel. At Stroock, she will work in the firm's investment management practice group focusing on private funds. ?Sarah's extensive knowledge of the investment management industry and experience in the formation and representation of hedge funds, private equity funds and funds of funds coincides with our clients' growing need for counsel in these disciplines,? said Thomas Heftler, Stroock co-managing partner, in a statement. Stroock has offices in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

Compagnoni arrives at Weil London
Following an announcement of the move in February, Marco Compagnoni, the former head of private equity at Lovells, has joined the London office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, to work on the private equity team. His hiring reunites him with former colleagues Jonathan Wood and several other private equity legal professionals who joined Weil Gotshal in April. According to a statement from Weil Gotshal, the firm's London office is currently celebrating its tenth year. The firm marked the event with a party for 400 at The Tower of London. Compagnoni commented at the event: ?Tonight has been a wonderful demonstration of the warmth and regard which clients and friends have developed for Weil Gotshal here in London over the past 10 years.? Weil Gotshal has more than 1,200 lawyers across 20 offices in the US, Europe and Asia.

Weil loses two to Dechert in London
Former Weil Gotshal & Manges partners Graham Defries and Wayne Rapozo are joining the London office of Dechert. Defries specializes in private equity, M&A and corporate finance. Rapozo, who is US qualified, focuses on securities and capital markets. The two have worked on a number of AIM transactions, a growing exit alternative for private equity firms. James Croock, cohead of Dechert's international M&A practice, said in a statement: ?Graham and Wayne have collaborated on very complex and successful transactions and their joining us represents another significant step forward in expansion of our European corporate and securities practice.?

Kirkland adds Allen partner in London
The international law firm has hired Stephen Gillespie away from Allen & Overy in London. At Allen & Overy, Gillespie specialized in international finance, with an emphasis on leveraged and event-driven finance. Gillespie worked on the financing of the BSN Medical Management GmbH buyout, the Yellow Brick Road directory businesses financing, and financings for the acquisition of Esselte AB by JW Childs. James Learner, a private equity partner at Kirkland's London office, said in a statement: ?We are very pleased to have Stephen join our partnership. With Kirkland's pre-eminent private equity practice, the addition of Stephen to our finance team will be an excellent asset to our Firm in the continuing growth of this area.? Kirkland & Ellis has 1,100 attorneys in offices located in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

Cleary Gottlieb gains Allen partner in London
International law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton announced that English M&A lawyer Michael McDonald will join the firm as a partner in its London office. McDonald comes to Cleary Gottlieb from Allen & Overy, where he specialized in M&A, private equity, joint ventures, and restructuring in various sectors.

Freshfields names sole head of real estate
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has named London partner Chris Morris as the sole head of the firm's global real estate practice, the firm announced. Friedrich Heilmann will act as Morris' deputy. Morris joined Freshfields in 1982 and became a partner in 1991. He specializes in real estate development, acquisitions and letting, and property finance. Heilmann has been a partner of Freshfields since 1996 and works in the Frankfurt office. Freshfields has more than 2,400 lawyers in 28 offices around the world.

SVB names general counsel
SVB Financial Group, the parent company of SVB Silicon Valley Bank, has named Mary Dent general counsel and secretary in charge of the company's legal department. Dent joins the firm from New Skies Satellites, a communications company based in the Netherlands. Dent advised New Skies on its 2000 IPO on the NYSE and AEX. In 2004, she advised the company as it was taken private by a private equity group, and then the next year taken public again. Prior to New Skies, Dent was an attorney with Goldberg, Godles, Wiener & Wright, a Washington DC firm. Based in Santa Clara, California, SVB provides services for private equity firms, as well as commercial, investment and private banking services.

Ashurst hires in Frankfurt
International law firm Ashurst has named Dr. Katrin Solmecke as a partner in the firm's Frankfurt corporate practice. Dr. Solmecke specializes in M&A transactions. She joins the firm from Lovells in Frankfurt. Geoffrey Green, senior partner at Ashurst, said in a statement: ?Katrin's appointment once again demonstrates our ability to attract top quality partners with our distinct combination of first tier work and excellent working environment.? Ashurst has over 150 partners in 11 countries.