FoF founder finds legal refuge

Clifford Chance has welcomed back Edward Gander, three years after he went off to test appetite for a new fund of funds.

When the co-founder of a European fund of funds quit earlier this month in order to rejoin the law firm he left three years ago, it provided some interesting insights into the contrasting current fortunes of funds of funds and legal advisers in the private equity field.

Edward Gander left his position as an associate in the London private equity fund formation team at Clifford Chance at the back end of 2003 in order to help launch ViaNova Capital, a London-and Zurich-based fund of funds, alongside three other co-founders.

The ViaNova European Buyout 2004 fund aimed to raise €500 million ($608 million) for investment in pan-European buyout funds, with 30 percent set aside for ?rising star? managers. The fund's cost structure generated much publicity: rather than charging establishment costs, annual management fees and carried interest, the fund would instead take a two percent interest in the fund and receive a one-off fee from investors equal to two percent of their commitments.

Around two and a half years since launch, ViaNova is still in the market for a fund, though a source close to the process told Private Equity Manager that the product now being marketed was different in some respects from the original, without elaborating further. A closing of the fund does not appear to be an imminent prospect.

One leading European limited partner told PEM: ?I think one of the problems in the private equity industry is that the buyers of product are reticent to look at anything new or innovative. There's a clarion call for changes in fund structures, but an unwillingness to support anyone who responds to that.?

But while conservatism on the part of investors may be one reason why funds like ViaNova's struggle to catch fire, there is also the inevitably tough prospect of trying to raise a first-time vehicle in an intensively competitive market. ?The funds of funds arena is remarkably well populated,? adds the limited partner source.

Perhaps in recognition of this, Gander has taken the opportunity to head back to Clifford Chance. Having done so, his personal fortunes seem on the turn – not only is he now a partner, he's also reaping the harvest of the boom rather than the whirlwind. ?It's a very hot market for private equity funds at the moment, and I have been brought in to help expand the business over the coming months,? he told PEM.

Norton Rose in slew of promotions
International law firm Norton Rose has promoted 23 associates to partner level, the firm announced. Among the new partners are Philip Mellor, based in London, who advises on private company mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and inward investment. His sector focus is on energy and infrastructure. Jochen Terpitz, based in Frankfurt, was also promoted to partner. Terpitz advises on private company mergers and acquisitions as well as on renewable energy projects. Norton Rose is based in London and has offices across Europe, in Hong Kong and in Bahrain.

New insolvency pro at White & Case
Sandeep Qusba has joined White & Case in New York as a partner in the financial restructuring and insolvency practice. Prior to joining White & Case, Qusba was a partner at O'Melveny & Myers. Howard Beltzer, co-head of the firm's global financial practice, said in a statement that White & Case needed additional professionals to maintain its ?reputation as the go-tofirm-when-the-chips-are-down.? Qusba received his law degree from Syracuse University. White & Case has nearly 2000 lawyers across 38 offices.

Proskauer fund practice grows
Boston-based Proskauer Rose announced that its fund formation practice, infused recently with former Testa Hurwitz lawyers Robin Painter and David Tegeler, hit new milestones in 2005. The firm represented more than 60 private equity funds with more than $20 billion in committed capital. According to a firm study, it represented 70 percent of private equity funds raised in the US in 2005. ?Our private equity practice has been a major force behind the growth of the firm's Corporate Department,? said Bruce Lieb, co-chair of Proskauer's Corporate Department. Painter and Tegeler joined the firm last year amidst the dissolution of Testa Hurwitz. Among the funds represented by the firm last year were vehicles sponsored by Spectrum Equity Investors, Abbot Capital Management and Clarus Ventures.

Simpson Thacher expands in China
New York-based law firm Simpson Thacher has applied for registration of a Beijing office and has hired two new professionals in Hong Kong, the firm announced. Leiming Chen, a former capital markets partner at Shearman & Sterling, will join the Hong Kong office as a resident partner. In addition, Shaolin Luo, a former Fangda Partners lawyer and, before that, a Shearman lawyer, will relocate from Beijing to become counsel in Hong Kong for Simpson Thacher. The firm currently has 17 lawyers in Hong Kong and 9 in Tokyo.

Linklaters duo jumps to Kirkland
Charlie Jacobs will take responsibility of Linklaters' London private equity practice after partners Graham White and Raymond McKeeve depart for Kirkland & Ellis. The Linklaters partners to continue in the private equity practice include Carlton Evans, Stephen Blackshaw, Dominic Welham, Aedamar Cominsky and Richard Youle. White and McKeeve both previously worked in Dickson Minto's London office before moving to SJ Berwin in 1999. The two then moved to Linklaters in 2001. Both are transaction advisors and have worked on deals sponsored by CVC Capital Partners, JPMorgan, Permira, Montagu and TDR Capital.

Debevoise hires tax pro in Paris
Debevoise & Plimpton has named Pierre-Pascal Bruneau a partner in its Paris office. He joins the firm from Slaughter and May, where he was a partner. Bruneau specializes in providing tax and structuring advice in domestic and cross-border transactions. He received his law degree from Georgetown University and from Chicago-Kent University. He is a member of the Paris bar and the Illinois bar. Debevoise, headquartered in New York, has 630 lawyers in the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Mintz Levin hires corp finance expert
Transatlantic law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo has hired Lena Hodge as head of corporate finance at the firm's London office. Hodge – who has been named of counsel – joins the firm's business and finance practice following a stint at UK commercial law firm Rosenblatt, where she served as partner and managed the day-to-day operations of the corporate department. Hodge is expected to leverage her experience in working with investment banks and be involved with the listing of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM), as these types of vehicles begin to take hold in Europe. Mintz Levin has 500 attorneys, with offices in Boston, Washington DC, Reston, New York, Stamford, Los Angeles and London.

Goodwin Procter adds life sciences talent
Edmund Pitcher has joined the Boston headquarters of law firm Goodwin Procter as partner in the life sciences practice. Pitcher was most recently at early-stage venture firm Flagship Venturesin Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he served as a venture partner evaluating life science and IT investment opportunities and handled the management of intellectual property risks with Flagship's holdings. Before joining Flagship, Pitcher was a partner at the former Boston law firm Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, where he established and led the firm's patent and IP practice. Prior to his time at Testa Hurwitz, Pitcher co-founded Boston IP boutique firm Lahive & Cockfield. Goodwin Procter has a total of six offices on the US East and West Coasts, with specialized practice areas in private equity, technology companies, real estate investments, and IP.

Lovells elects new partners
As of the beginning of this month, 18 partners have been newly elected at Lovells, a global corporate and IP law firm. Among the new partners are Philipp Grzimek, a corporate lawyer focusing on private equity transactions, and Patrick Kaffiné, who focuses on corporate M&A and private equity. Both Grzimek and Kaffiné are based at the Lovells' Frankfurt office. With the promotions, Lovells now boasts 320 partners housed in the firm's 26 offices in Europe, Asia and North America.

East Coast law firms merge
Boston law firm Gadsby Hannah and East Coast litigation firm McCarter & English have agreed to combine, forming a new entity with 430 lawyers across 8 offices in the northeastern US. McCarter & English is known for its life sciences and financial institutions practices, having aided biotech and medical device companies in obtaining venture capital funding, as well as represented parties in M&A transactions. Meanwhile, Gadsby Hannah was founded in 1963 by a former SEC chairman and the former general counsel of defense technology developer Raytheon. The firm's specialties include its litigation and construction practices, and among its clients are retailers, energy companies, and governmental entities.

Cleary Gottlieb big in Q1
New York-based Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton ranked first in the US in mergers and acquisitions practice during the first quarter of 2006, according Thomson Financial league tables. According to the firm, it placed first for ?completed US M&A deals,? with $100.8 billion in transaction volume. For worldwide completed deals, Cleary ranked fourth with $110.2 billion in deals. The firm employs 850 lawyers and operates 12 offices around the world.