KKR bulks up legal team for listing

Simpson Thatcher and six others will advise KKR.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is assembling a team of prominent law firms led by Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett to assist on its planned listing later this year.

KKR and its team of advisors have drawn up a plan to acquire and de-list its Euronext-traded fund, KKR Private Equity Investors, then list the combined entity on the New York Stock Exchange later this year. The deal comes a year after KKR first registered for a $1.25 billion IPO in June 2007.

Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett, led by partner Alan Klein, are acting as lead counsel to KKR for the transaction. KKR has long been a client of Simpson Thatcher. Last November, KKR lured Simpson Thatcher attorney David Sorkin to become its first ever in-house general counsel. The Simpson Thatcher team for the transaction is led by partner Alan Klein, and includes partners Joseph Kaufman, Alvin Brown, Lori Lesser, Steven Todrys and Andrea Wahlquist.

KKR has also brought in Linklaters, its fund counsel, to advise on Dutch law. Linklaters partner Scott Bowie and counsel Wim Hazeleger are the lead advisors. KKR PEI has hired French firm Bredin Prat as lead counsel.

Cravath Swaine & Moore, which represented the underwriters when KKR PEI went public in May 2006, is acting as US counsel to the independent directors of the general partner of the European fund. The Cravath team is led by partner George Stephanakis.

Weil Gotshal & Manges is representing KKR PEI's financial advisers Citi and Lazard. The Weil Gotshal team is led by New York corporate partners Michael Aiello and Thomas Roberts. A Paris corporate partner Claude Serra and London corporate partner Mike Francies are also participating.

De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek is acting as Dutch counsel for KKR PEI. Ogier partner Roger Le Tissier is acting as counsel in Guernsey, Channel Islands, where the affiliate's general partner, KKR Guernsey GP, is based.

This is not the first private equity listing Simpson Thatcher has engineered. The firm advised The Blackstone Group on its initial public offering last June, along with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Skadden also represented Fortress Investment Group on its IPO that February.

Ropes & Gray adds to private equity practice
Adding a private equity partner to its newly minted Chicago office, Ropes & Gray also announced the arrival of three other attorneys, along with Andrew Terry. Justin Choi, counsel, and associates, Jennifer Genzler and Neill Jakobe joined the law firm's Windy City office, which opened in February. Jonathan Grandon, a partner in the firm's now four-partner private equity group in Chicago, tells PEI Manager that he, Terry and Jim Lidbury comprise the Chicago-based private equity partner group. The office's other partner, Deborah Monson, focuses on investment management, private investment funds and derivatives law. Including its fund formation practice, Ropes has roughly 200 professionals dedicated to private equity, notes Grandon. The fund formation unit consists of 28 partners and 75 associates, making it a sizeable piece of the firm's buyout advisory efforts.

Cadwalader corrals new partner for London financial regulatory practice
In early August, New York-based Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft rehired Thomas O'Riordan for its financial regulatory practice. O'Riordan worked at the firm from 2002 to 2005 in various capacities, including retained counsel and most recently was at Quadrant Chambers specializing in commercial litigation. Cadwalader, meanwhile, continues to boost its private equity capacity. Indeed, this year, it has doubled its number of private equity partners. Since February the firm has added four private equity partners in New York. The private equity group is a subset of Cadwalader's 131-attorney corporate group. The bulk of the firm's private equity practioners are based in New York, a spokeswoman says. O'Riordan is in Cadwalader's 131-attorney corporate group, but his connection to private equity clients is strong. “He is a person who is intimately familiar with regulatory issues in the UK and the EU,” comments the spokeswoman.

Proskauer pulls in additional M&A partner in New York
Proskauer Rose has brought on a partner specializing in private equity sponsors and hedge funds. Joshua Thompson arrived at the law firm from Jefferies Finance, where he was general counsel and secretary since February 2007. The lion's share of his work is in leveraged finance with, according to a release, “a particular emphasis on acquisition finance and debt transactions for investment banks.” Before Jefferies, Thompson worked at White & Case for seven years, advising both financial sponsors and hedge funds.

Norton Rose adds to Middle East practice
Norton Rose has bolstered its practice in the Middle East with the hire of a corporate partner from New Zealand. Andrew Lewis, who focuses on private equity and venture capital work, has joined the law firm's Dubai office after 11 years as a partner with Simpson Grierson in Auckland. His appointment brings Norton Rose's Middle East team to 12 partners, and its Dubai team to nine partners. Lewis' appointment follows the arrival of corporate finance partner Andrew Abernethy in Dubai in July 2008, from New Zealand law firm Bell Gully. “We will significantly enhance our offerings to clients, particularly in relation to international M&A where our practice and reputation continue to develop strongly with the opening of our Riyadh office, continued growth in Dubai and Bahrain, as well as our imminent opening in Abu Dhabi,” said Campbell Steedman, international managing partner for the Middle East.

In time for the Olympics, Covington covers M&A in China
Covington & Burling has opened an office in Beijing a month prior to the world's attention descending on that city for the Olympic Games. Heading the Washington, DC-based law firm's new five-attorney office is partner, Stuart Stock, chair of Covington's management committee for six years until January. Currently, no one in the group focuses solely on private equity. However, prior to the office opening, numerous Covington lawyers handling private equity would work in the region, points out a firm spokeswoman. Covington cleared the regulatory hurdle needed to open its office in Beijing on June 5 when the Chinese government granted it a license. The Covington spokeswoman says the firm is in China for the long haul, noting it has a “big enough space for 20 people.” The firm's most recent completed mandate was the buy-side work it did for Intercell AG. Vienna-based Intercell, a biotechnology company focused on developing vaccines, closed its takeout of Iomai, renamed Intercell USA, for an undisclosed sum.

Kirkland opens Silicon Valley office
Kirkland & Ellis has bought space for a new Silicon Valley office in Palo Alto, California. The office is the firm's ninth office worldwide, sixth office domestically and third office on the West Coast. The need for the new office came from the rapid growth in business out of the firm's San Francisco office, which opened five years ago. The firm's San Francisco office, which launched with 12 lawyers, now has over 100, including 40 IP specialists. The office opens with 15 lawyers who focus their practice in the areas of private equity and intellectual property litigation. The office was staffed partly by Kirkland attorneys who were relocated, and partly by new hires, including one from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Kirkland plans to add another five lawyers in the near future. The space will allow for the growth of up to 40 lawyers, the firm said. “The new office will expand our presence in the Bay Area and enhance our ability to serve our current and future Silicon Valley clients,” says Jeffrey Hammes, the senior partner of Kirkland's Palo Alto and San Francisco offices.