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Clifford Chance has shaken up its management team in Moscow as it refocuses on the Russian capital for the first time since the financial crash of 1998
The firm is moving top banking partner Michael Cuthbert from London to take up the role of senior partner. He has been charged with courting the firm's London banking clients, which are starting to become active in Moscow. Cuthbert's move coincides with a huge change of personnel in the Moscow office. It has been managed jointly by former Pünder Volhard Weber & Axster partner Hermann Schmitt and the highly-rated Russian litigator Ivan Marisin. However, Schmitt is due to return to Germany in April next year. The office is also losing two other partners. US corporate partner Bruce Bean has announced his retirement and English banking partner John Balsdon has decided on a move to Herbert Smith. Marisin will continue as managing partner, focusing on the day-to-day running of the Moscow office, while Cuthbert undertakes its strategic development. Cuthbert is the first top London partner to manage the office since 1999, when John Holmes, now managing partner of Dubai, stepped down from running Moscow. Before Holmes took over in 1997, former managing partner Tony Williams ran the Moscow office. Since Holmes left and Clifford Chance sealed its German merger with Pünder in 2000, the office has been managed jointly by Schmitt and Marisin. In the year of the merger, the Moscow offices of both firms were combined and 30 lawyers were made redundant Clifford Chance global head of banking Stuart Popham said the firm asked Cuthbert to spearhead the new push into Moscow as the region is waking up. "The market is turning in Moscow. We're refocusing on the region in response to our clients' activities. The investment banks are getting interested again," he said. Last week, Russian cosmetics and healthcare company Kalina announced that it was planning an initial public offering for the end of 2003. Clifford Chance client UBS Warburg has been appointed as lead manager. In April, Clifford Chance clients Schroder Salomon Smith Barney and Credit Suisse First Boston advised Russian energy giant Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer, on a $500m (£327.5m) Eurobond issue. Cuthbert's role will be to make sure that when Clifford Chance banking clients are working on such deals, they use the firm's Moscow office. He is the main relationship partner, although the bank is not particularly active in Russia at present. The Lehman relationship will be widened out to include another London banking partner and a New York partner following Cuthbert's decision to move.