PE in power

Ashurst has promoted its private equity head to senior partner.

Private equity head Charlie Geffen will succeed Geoffrey Green as the new senior partner of international law firm Ashurst at the end of this year. Green will depart for Hong Kong following the transition, to launch the firm's China operations.

Geffen, who is based in London, has a client list that boasts a number of top European buyout firms like Apax, Apollo, Cognetas, Blackstone, General Atlantic, LGV, Stirling Square and Terra Firma.

His promotion comes amid a period a significant growth for the firm, which saw revenue for the three-year period ending April 2008 rise by 61 percent and profits per partner by 83 percent. Ashurst recently landed a lead role on the proposed €1.8 million takeover of Russian oil exploration giant Imperial Energy, and was named the main advisor for Emap following its takeover by Guardian Media House and private equity house Apax.

Geffen has spent his entire professional career with Ashurst, starting as a trainee in 1982 and rising to partner in 1991. In addition to working on the Emap deal he also advised the Blackstone Group and its portfolio company Merlin Entertainment Group on its €2.6 billion merger with the Tussauds Group this year. His previous deals include the acquisition by Cinven and Warburg Pincus of Casema and Multikabel in 2006 and Gala on its purchase of bookmaking chain Coral Eurobet.

Ashurst's new China operations will focus on corporate, finance and mergers and acquisitions. Geffen says Ashurst is focusing on expanding its business in Asia due to the expected growth in transactional activity in the region.

“Having invested a lot in Europe over the last 10 years and built that up organically, there are clearly a lot of opportunities in the Middle East and Asia,” he said. “We've been in the Middle East a number of years now and that's growing very successfully, and we want to replicate the Ashurst business in Asia as well.”

Ashurst is also seeing a spike in its advising and restructuring work amid the current downturn, including from Lehman Brothers. It has advised Lehman's European investment banking division on its takeover by Nomura, as well as finance house CarVal Investors on an emergency loan which ensured that the London staff of Lehman got paid in September.

“We certainly think the restructuring opportunities are only going to grow going forward,” Geffen said. “Although at the moment the crisis still seems to be a financial, capital markets crisis rather than a default problem with industrial companies. We'll see how that evolves.”