A&O comes aboard as KLM ditches De Brauw

Dutch national airline KLM has chosen Allen & Overy (A&O) as its new lead adviser following a review that was prompted by its dramatic fallout with De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.

A&O’s global head of corporate and Dutch senior partner Sietze Hepkema will lead the new relationship. The appointment is a major coup for the Amsterdam office.

“We’re keen to consolidate and build on our position in the Dutch corporate market. This underscores our position nicely,” said Hepkema.

The lengthy review began after a Dutch arbitration tribunal ruled on 5 December last year that KLM would have to pay e150m (£106.4m) to Alitalia for tearing up their alliance in April 2000. KLM said De Brauw partner Pierre Nijnen did not advise it to take a provision to cover any claim from the Italian airline for breaking off the alliance.

With its fingers burnt, KLM has appointed A&O to take particular responsibility for working on its alliances with other airlines, such as British Airways.

KLM’s decision to sack Nijnen caused a massive stir in the Dutch market, not least because he had been extremely close to the airline for 10 years as its ‘house lawyer’.

The subsequent review, led by head of in-house legal Leslie Mooyaart, has led KLM to rethink its approach to legal services. As a result, A&O’s role will not be as all-encompassing as De Brauw’s. Smaller matters will go to other firms.

Slaughter and May best friend Nauta Dutilh is also understood to have been in the running for the top role.

De Brauw had held out some hope of continuing to work for KLM by fielding alternative lawyers, but a KLM spokesman dashed these hopes and said the relationship had now ceased.