Freshfields' Amsterdam HQ poaches top Dutch partner

One of the top competition lawyers in The Netherlands is joining Freshfields' Amsterdam office to set up a new practice.

Winfred Knibbeler, a partner with top Dutch firm Nauta Dutilh, is a leading light in Dutch and European Union (EU) competition law – with clients including banking giant ABN Amro and Ajax Football Club.

He will be the first partner in Freshfields' Dutch office to specialise in the practice area, and will develop it to support the office's corporate and tax groups.

He also has a regulatory practice specialising in the electricity and telecoms sectors.

Ian Hewitt, Freshfields managing partner in Amsterdam, says: “We opened the office here in May last year and have been building it up steadily since then. We are developing a strong corporate mergers and acquisitions (M&A) practice, and we need to match that with competition and regulatory expertise.

“We have been looking for the right partner to join us and move that along for a while. We have several competition partners in Brussels and he will fit into that structure.”

Hewitt says the competition and regulatory work is growing in The Netherlands.

“Competition practices have traditionally been more Brussels-based because the Dutch competition law really only developed a year or so ago. It has now become a more significant feature of cross-border M&A transactions which do not call for EU clearance but call for clearance in the national jurisdictions.”

While there is no optimum size for the practice, Knibbeler will be charged with expanding the team.

The office in Amsterdam now has 13 partners and a total of 45 lawyers. The firms plans to build the office up to 75 lawyers by the end of the year.

Hewitt is optimistic that Knibbeler will bring some of his clients with him as well as servicing Freshfields' existing work flow.

He says: “He has a reputation which I am sure will continue.”

Knibbeler refused to comment.