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With trophy hire strategy in question it is time for firm’s in-house talent to step up
Is Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) big name lateral hiring strategy falling apart? That was the question asked by some when private equity heavyweight Raymond McKeeve started window-shopping, allegedly before Christmas.
While his move to Jones Day marked the latest high-profile departure from the firm – the last of around 27 partners to have had their LLP appointments terminated since November 2012, according to filings at Companies House – it also ended months of speculation on when, why and where he was going.
It all started late last year. According to insiders, McKeeve got talking to DLA Piper on the premise that it would take on him and at least one other partner. The story goes that BLP got wind of this and one way or another the deal fell through. Although neither McKeeve nor DLA responded to calls or emails on the matter the alleged discussions remind us that exits can be less linked to strategy and more to opportunity. It is career window-shopping, a popular activity in turbulent times.
On the theme of opportunism, the latest noise is that one other partner may be moving with McKeeve. Given that insiders claim BLP’s profits have fallen by as much as 40 per cent this is not a huge surprise. But the firm pays its big-hitters well – recruiters estimate McKeeve’s salary to have been around £1m.
Despite speculation that McKeeve would walk out with a team, BLP corporate head David Collins remained defiant.
“I hope no one will be going with Raymond McKeeve,” he stressed on the day of McKeeve’s move. “Nothing has come across my desk that leads me to believe there will be other departures. There’s been a lot of positive change within the group.”
So is BLP’s strategy crumbling?
“BLP have bought in more than their fair share of trophy folks,” says one source. “They’re under pressure to deliver and they’re bringing down profitability. BLP may not bring in names as big as McKeeve going forward.”
Maybe not, but at least that will create some opportunities for home-grown talent.