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German law firm Hengeler Mueller Weitzel Wirtz has recruited the Brussels head of rival firm Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch.
In an unprecedented move, Hengeler has appointed antitrust lawyer Hans-Joerg Niemeyer as a partner in its Brussels office. Niemeyer, who joined Hengeler on 1 March, is the first lawyer in the history of the firm to be taken on at partner level. He is expected to take a number of clients with him.
The only comparable appointment is the recruitment of tax lawyer Ernst-Thomas Kraft, who was taken on as a senior associate a number of years ago.
Hengeler Düsseldorf competition partner Christoph Stadler says that Niemeyer was taken on because "he is a very good fit".
"He approached us, but we were planning to enlarge our Brussels presence," he says. "Niemeyer is an antitrust lawyer but he is also very active in state aid, and his appointment broadens the scope of our Brussels office."
Niemeyer joins antitrust and regulations partner Bernhard Maassen. Although Maassen is the only competition partner in Brussels, there are other competition partners based in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf.
"Unlike many firms, we haven't concentrated our European Community (EC) competition practice in Brussels. Our strategy is to be a visible player, but we don't need a huge presence there. However, we do need competent people who know the commission," says Stadler.
The Brussels office focuses on EC merger control. It is currently representing utilities company RWE One group in its attempt to acquire the Spanish electricity provider Hidro-electrica del Cantabrico.
Last year it advised on the merger between Hoechst and Rhôme-Poulenc, which created life sciences company Aventis.