Contest for top job at CC opens up

Two more partners close to entering race: dark horse Wehrli worth a punt

The contenders for the top job at Clifford Chance have emerged, with global corporate head Matthew Layton, Paris chief Yves Wehrli and new entrant, real estate finance partner Andrew Carnegie, all bidding to win the partnership vote next month.

It wasn’t too long ago that five partners were in the frame to succeed David Childs as managing partner when he stands down in May. As well as the three who have declared their intentions, Middle East managing partner David Bickerton and banking head Mark Campbell are also thought to have been close to entering the race.

The nomination process is now complete, with a vote likely at the end of November. The next stage will kick off next month when the hustings start, involving presentations from the candidates across the firm’s jurisdictions.

Layton stands out as the front runner, many suggest. The global corporate head was re-elected last year uncontested and his strong reputation in London looks set to push him to the top of the pile.

Another insider, however, contends the vote is no dead cert, with Wehrli also favoured.

Despite mutterings earlier this year about corporate partner Wehrli’s difficulties in winning over the London base, one source says he is “a viable candidate” to take the helm of the 16-person management committee. This is not a view that is commonly held. Another partner suggests Wehrli is yet to make his presence felt.

Nevertheless, Wehrli has a seat on the management committee, monitored by the recently revamped partnership council where he is the magic circle firm’s Europe strategy representative.

The new name is London real estate head Andrew Carnegie, the only candidate who does not sit on either the management committee or the partnership council.

Childs has been at the helm for eight years, having been re-elected at the end of 2009.

He has steered Clifford Chance through the recession and his will be big shoes to fill. The challenge for the contenders is to prove they have what it takes to help with pushing the firm ahead on the global stage.