Talent coup

Cadwalader Wickersham has launched its own private equity practice with a splash, by drafting a Latham & Watkins pro.

New York-based law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft has announced the first appointment to its new private equity practice: R. Ronald Hopkinson, formerly the global head of Latham & Watkin's private equity group.

?As part of Cadwalader's diversification efforts, a key strategy has been to expand our corporate department, already a major player in public M&A and corporate governance, through the development of a market-leading private equity practice,? says Robert Link, the chairman and managing partner of Cadwalader.

This represents a major change for Hopkinson. He first joined Latham & Watkins in 1988 as an associate and was elected to the partnership in 1996. Despite his long history with the firm, Hopkinson couldn't pass on the chance to a build a practice from the ground up. ?[Cadwalader] already has a highly regarded public M&A practice, a leading restructuring group and plenty of regulatory expertise, which could provide invaluable synergies for launching a private equity practice of their own.?

Hopkinson noted that those synergies are particularly relevant given current conditions. ?Plenty of buyout firms are pursuing public assets these days, and given today's economic uncertainty, restructuring will be a key element in deal-making,? says Hopkinson. ?Add the firm's expertise in specific industries like healthcare and financial services and we can argue that we've got the ideal blend of skills for certain transactions? he says. His top priority is recruiting other A-list talent for the team and collaborating with the other practices on any opportunities to tap his expertise immediately.

Bringing that expertise in-house could prove invaluable for Cadwalader. Hopkinson's group at Latham & Watkins garnered top spots with mergermarket's M&A league tables, earning the #2 spot based on number of US buyouts, #3 for number of global buyouts and ranked in the Top 10 globally and for pan-European by value and number of deals for 2007. Hopkinson was personally selected as a Dealmaker of the Year by The American Lawyer in 2003.

?Ron's experience as counsel in high-profile transactions on behalf of some of the world's largest private equity firms and private equity consortiums, as well as his work with leading corporations in major acquisitions, joint ventures, and corporate restructurings, will be instrumental in further enhancing [our] breadth of services,? said Louis J. Bevilacqua, chairman of Cadwalader's corporate department. ?By capitalizing on Ron's strong relationships and outstanding reputation in the private equity community, and Cadwalader's deep ties in the financial community, we anticipate building a top tier private equity practice,? said Link.

Gibson Dunn hires Middle Eastern expert
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has hired Mitri Najjar as a partner. Najjar will split his time between the firm's London and Dubai offices, advising clients in the Gulf region on international transactions and investments, as well as European and US companies doing business in the Gulf region. Najjar was most recently a partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf, where he practiced corporate and finance law. ?[Najjar] has 25 years of experience working on transactions involving Middle Eastern and Gulf countries,? Peter Baumbush, head of Gibson Dunn's Dubai office, said in a statement. ?His contacts and his ability to speak Arabic fluently will be a tremendous benefit to our clients.? Gibson Dunn has long been active in the region, structuring Shariah compliant leveraged buyout transactions in Europe and the US, as well as advising Middle Eastern financial institutions looking to establish affiliates abroad.

Proskauer Rose adds to London office
Proskauer Rose has hired William Yonge as a partner in its London office. He advises on financial services regulations and securities law, as well as the structuring, establishment and marketing of a range of investment fund types. ?Yonge's experience will be invaluable to us as we grow our London-based fund formation, structured finance and corporate capabilities,? said Matthew Hudson, head of the firm's London office, in a statement. ?In particular, Financial Services Authority advice is vital for our growing client base of private equity and hedge fund clients.? Yonge was previously a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, where he focused on securities litigation and funds. Before, he was an attorney at Dechert, and SJ Berwin & co. Before entering private practice, he was an in-house lawyer at the Investment Management Regulatory Organisation and the Securities and Investments Board in the UK.

Dechert nabs former Qwest GC
Dechert has hired Drake Tempest, formerly of O'Melveny & Myers, to its New York office. Tempest practices in the corporate and securities group, where he represents buyers, sellers, financial advisors and special committees of boards of directors in public and private acquisitions; sponsors and investors in private equity funds; lenders and borrowers in secured and unsecured credit facilities and issuers and underwriters in public and private offerings of debt and equity securities. Before joining O'Melveny & Myers, Tempest was executive vice president and general counsel of Qwest Communications International for four years. There he directed the $51 billion hostile takeover of US WEST, and the $7 billion disposition of QwestDEX, the company's yellow pages business. ?Tempest brings a wealth of practical experience, having counseled on complex corporate transactions both in private practice and as general counsel of a major publicly traded corporation,? Dechert chairman Barton Winokur said in a statement.

Oostvogels appoints two new partners
Luxembourg-based Oostvogels Pfister Feyten has announced the appointment of two new partners, one to the corporate practice, and the other to the investment funds group. The firm named Gérard Maîtrejean a partner within the corporate practice. Maîtrejean joined the firm in 2002, and has specialized in the areas of corporate law, mergers & acquisitions and general business law and mainly advises private equity and international financial groups on a wide array of domestic and international transactions. Maîtrejean has also advised corporations in relation to their general corporate affairs, joint venture transactions and corporate migrations. His experience previous to Oostvogels includes working as corporate legal adviser within Ernst & Young Luxembourg's financial engineering department where he was responsible for restructurings on behalf of many international groups. The firm also named Harold Parize, former head of legal and compliance at HSBC Securities Services Luxembourg, a partner within the investment funds practice. Parize headed the legal and compliance teams at HSBC for more than five years and was previously an independent lawyer running his own consultancy until 2001, a period during which he advised a number of Luxembourg banks and financial professionals.

Cressey names lawyer newest partner
Chicago-based Cressey & Company has announced that Ralph Davis, currently chairman of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP, will join the healthcare focused investment firm as partner and will focus on making new investments and supporting portfolio companies. Mr. Davis is currently the chairman and a member of the board of directors of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP, where he has been a partner since 1995. Waller Lansden focuses on mergers and acquisitions, particularly in the healthcare industry, public and private equity and debt financing and general corporate law. Prior to joining Waller Lansden, Davis was an associate with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom. ?We value Ralph's deep healthcare knowledge and significant legal expertise,? said Mr. Ehrich, a partner at Cressey. ?His addition to our team will enhance our deal sourcing and collaboration with our portfolio company management teams.?

Fenwick & West launches Seattle office
Fenwick & West, a leading technology and life sciences law firm with offices in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, has announced the appointment of three Seattle corporate lawyers, Stephen M. Graham, Roger M. Tolbert and Alan C. Smith, who will establish its office in that city. ?We think Seattle presents a very attractive growth opportunity for us; it is a vibrant center of innovation in technology and life sciences and a gateway for international commerce with many similarities to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Initially, we expect to have 8 to 10 lawyers in Seattle but plan to grow the office to 20 to 30 lawyers over the next few years,? says Fenwick's Chairman Gordon K. Davidson. ?Steve Graham is a trusted corporate counselor with a high profile and an impeccable reputation in the Seattle business community. Roger Tolbert is an exceptionally talented licensing attorney with deep expertise in life sciences, and Alan Smith is a recognized young star with a substantial and rapidly growing corporate practice. They are exactly what we were looking for to launch an office in Seattle and expand our global technology and life sciences practice.?

Walkers bulks up Jersey practice
The offshore law firm Walkers has announced the promotions of four lawyers in its Jersey team to address increased activity in the jurisdiction. The new Jersey partners include James Gaudin, a Jersey advocate, Michael Johns, and Jonathan Heaney. Gaudin and Johns lead the capital markets, structured finance, banking and asset finance practice areas. Heaney, who joined the Jersey team via Walkers' London office, spent two years in the British Virgin Islands and leads the investment funds practice area. Paul Nicholls, the fourth new partner is an experienced commercial litigator whose work has focused on contentious trust litigation, asset recovery, compliance, and regulatory disputes. ?We expect to see a lot of restructuring work in Jersey this year, as well as financing from the Eastern European and the Middle Eastern markets and listings on the major UK exchanges as well as the Channel Islands Stock Exchange (CISX),? says Heather Bestwick, Walkers' resident Cayman partner in Jersey.