Akin Gump launches in Hong Kong with Shearman, Norton Rose hires

Akin Gump has opened an office in Hong Kong with newly recruited partners Gregory Puff and Andrew Abernethy, joining from Shearman & Sterling and Norton Rose respectively.

The new office is Akin Gump’s second in Asia, following its Beijing opening in 2007. Gregory Puff, previously a partner of Shearman & Sterling’s M&A practice group in Hong Kong, will lead Akin Gump’s Asia practice and its Hong Kong office, focusing primarily on corporate, capital markets, private equity and funds. The firm also plans to offer US, English and Hong Kong legal advice in the coming months.

Puff, qualified in both New York and Hong Kong, has been involved in a wide array of public and private M&A transactions around the world. In 2011, he advised on a considerable number of US-listed Chinese companies going private (16 January 2012). In Shanda Interactive Entertainment’s $690m leveraged buyout deal, for example, Puff and fellow partner Ling Huang acted for Shanda’s chief executive Chen Tianqiao and his family members.

“It will be a huge challenge to me to lead Akin Gump’s expansion in Asia. It is a pure greenfield project. The firm is a very big firm, but it never has a significant Asia presence before. We are looking to become bigger and better here,” said Puff.

“But I am very confident, because we have a different and focused game plan. We won’t initially focus on the crowed Hong Kong capital markets, but focus on M&A, private equity, funds formations, particularly in the energy, oil and gas and telecom industries,” he added.

Andrew Abernethy, formerly a partner of Norton Rose in Hong Kong, is an M&A and investment funds lawyer. He relocated from the firm’s Dubai office to Hong Kong in 2010. He will join Akin Gump in the coming weeks.

The new Hong Kong office is still in the process of recruiting associates and supporting staff. Puff said he expected the Hong Kong team will reach the critical mass of 20-25 people very soon.

The firm’s international managing partner Rick Burdick said in a statement: “The firm’s strategy is to develop offices throughout the world that actively support clients in their global activities, which are currently heavily geared towards emerging markets.  We see a number of synergies between our well-established Russia and wider international practices and our plans for Hong Kong.  Given that our clients are actively expanding their business across Asia, this is the ideal time to open Akin Gump’s Hong Kong office.”

Akin Gump’s Asia expansion will not stop in Hong Kong. In addition to growing the newly established Hong Kong office, Puff will be closely involved in the firm’s opening in Singapore, which is expected to go live this summer.