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Davis Polk & Wardwell is launching an English law capability in London with the hire of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer heavy hitter Simon Witty.
Witty has been a partner in Freshfields’ London corporate department for the past 15 years. He specialises in public and private securities offerings and mergers and acquisitions.
“We’ve seen Simon’s work first-hand in handling some of the most complex equity transactions in Europe,” said Davis Polk managing partner Tom Reid in a statement. “He’s ideally suited to help us launch our English law practice in London and to develop our existing English law capabilities in China and Brazil.”
Witty added: “I’ve greatly enjoyed my time at Freshfields, but the opportunity to continue my practice at Davis Polk provides a new and exciting challenge. I’ll be privileged to have been a partner at two such fine law firms.”
The hire of Witty is a radical move for Davis Polk, which until now has relied on best-friends relationships with UK firms, in particular with Slaughter and May.
One legal market consultant said: “This will really put the cat among the pigeons with Slaughters as Davis Polk is their closest US firm for referrals, it’s part of the inner circle. Who will they turn to now?”
Witty is widely cited as one of London’s leading equity capital markets lawyers, having acted on numerous international IPOs and listings including those of Yell, eircom, Premier Foods, Virgin Mobile, Inmarsat, Britvic, QinetiQ and Experian.
Witty also worked on Abbey National’s acquisition of National and Provincial Building Society, Northern Rock’s conversion and flotation and Dominion Resources’ successful bid for East Midlands Electricity.
Last week The Lawyer reported that Witty was among the Freshfields lawyers that had acted on numerous deals for Goldman Sachs (2 January 2012), helping propel the magic circle firm into dual pole position for work from the US investment bank.
In recent months Davis Polk has significantly expanded its English law capability overseas, specifically in Hong Kong and São Paulo.
A Freshfields spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to see Simon go and we wish him the best.”