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Hengeler Mueller, Slaughter and May’s best friend in Germany, has taken the unprecedented step of admitting that the firm was forced to part company with one of its partners.
The shock statement came following the departure of Wolfgang Grobecker, a corporate M&A partner, who joined the Munich office of US firm Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy last week.
While Grobecker said he had left Henegler due to strategic differences, the firm said his departure had not been voluntary.
Markus Meier, a partner in Hengeler’s Frankfurt office, said: “Wolfgang Grobecker has not been active for Hengeler Mueller since 23 November 2009. The firm was forced to part with him due to unacceptable personal misconduct in the workplace not related to the firm’s business.”
News of Grobecker’s move to a rival firm surprised the German legal market. It was thought to be the first time a partner had left Hengeler for a rival since the German heavyweight was formed via the 1990 merger between Düsseldorf-based Hengeler Kurth Wirtz and Frankfurt firm Mueller Weitzel Weisner.
Milbank refused to comment on Hengeler’s statement about Grobecker.
Phil Fletcher, chairman of Milbank’s European practices, said: “We’ve generally sought to balance internal and lateral growth in our partnership ranks and are pleased we’ve been able to attract in the past year, in addition to Wolfgang, strong partners in restructuring and litigation.
“We were also able to promote a tax partner in Munich, bringing our total internally promoted European partner ranks to 11.
“We’ll definitely continue to look for opportunities to grow our team, both to add depth where needed and to broaden our capabilities within our core finance, corporate, tax, restructuring and litigation practices.”
Grobecker, who specialises in corporate law, with a particular focus on corporate advisory work, had spent his decade-long career to date at Hengeler, joining the firm in 2000 and making partner in 2005.
He was one of three founding partners of Hengeler’s Munich office, setting up the base alongside partners Achim Herfs and Gerhard Lang in 2006.
That launch saw the firm break with tradition to make a lateral hire, taking on Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner Hans-Jörg Ziegenhain to bolster the office just a month after it opened its doors.
At Milbank Grobecker joins a relatively new practice. The firm’s Munich corporate advisory practice was founded in 2004 by partners Norbert Rieger, Ulrike Friese-Dormann and Christoph Rothenfusser.
Milbank’s German practice focuses on providing corporate advice to listed companies, including the preparation and coaching of annual shareholders’ meetings, corporate litigation and appraisal proceedings following corporate reorganisations.