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The Cologne and Düsseldorf branches of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) German law firm Heussen, previously known as PwC Veltins, are to split from the firm after a dispute over the firm’s management buyout from PwC.
The split, which will see Heussen lose its managing partner Thomas Kerkhoff, has thrown the firm’s separation talks with PwC off track.
The Düsseldorf partners, led by Michael Mutze and Hans Stefan Korsch, had what a senior Heussen source called “individual claims” that they could not agree with PwC.
PwC is understood to be negotiating exit and settlement terms with its German lawyers and 1 July is the target for a full and final split.
However, Mutze and Korsch have now led two other partners, including Kerkhoff, out of Heussen and into a spin-off boutique firm. Around 25 lawyers in total will quit PwC and join the new firm.
One source at Heussen said: “We’re still in negotiations, but there has been an interruption.”
The firm is now being managed by PwC’s Bedo Panner, who was parachuted in to handle the split between Heussen and its accountancy parent. Korsch and Mutze are real estate and labour law specialists, while Kerkhoff is an intellectual property lawyer. A source at Heussen said: “They’ve always done local Rhineland real estate work and have decided to go back to their roots.”
The departing team were among the most profitable at Heussen, but one senior source played down the defections, claiming that the firm had failed to build up the corporate mass it had hoped for in these two offices and would now be able to concentrate on Munich and Frankfurt.
A split by the Düsseldorf and Cologne offices, which came from German rival Heuking Kuhn Luer Heussen Wojtek, has been on the cards since last year, but Kerkhoff thought it had been avoided. At one stage there were also discussions to spin off the Munich office, which was also legacy Heuking.
Kerkhoff said: “We’ll amicably negotiate our exit and all the lawyers are going.”