Investment group Aurelius hires first UK legal chief

European investment group Aurelius has hired former Sky legal adviser Kimberley Whitaker as its first-ever UK head of legal.

Whitaker, who took up her new role in March, has worked as a legal adviser both for Sky and UBM in the past two years. Prior to that, she spent stints as an associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and legacy Norton Rose.

She becomes Aurelius’ first legal adviser based in the UK following the group’s London launch in April 2014.

Whitaker’s hire brings the listed, mid-market European investor’s total lawyer headcount up to seven – the majority of which are based in its Munich headquarters.

Aurelius, which was established in 2004, has become the latest business to keep the majority of its legal advice in-house, following in the footsteps of those including construction giant Balfour Beatty.

The Lawyer previously reported that the construction giant is dealing with all legal work connected to the transformation of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium into West Ham Football Club’s home ground in-house (8 January 2014).

Whitaker said that the set-up will help Aurelius to maintain the pace and flexibility necessary to adapt to the demands of corporates. She noted: “Having the legal team in-house means that we don’t need to waste time instructing counsel.”

However, she is planning to launch a formal legal panel review for the investor’s UK-related deals later this year. The panel will be utilised on particularly complex deals or those with a heavy multi-jurisdictional element.

In Germany, Aurelius has a longstanding relationship with Watson Farley & Williams, which is the alumni firm of its general counsel M&A, Michael Ruoff. 

Last year, the investor turned to WFW for advice on its acquisition of the Unified Communications business of the NEC Group. Earlier this month, the firm advised on Aurelius’ acquisition of Scholl’s footwear division from Reckitt Benckiser Group.

On both deals, WFW’s corporate chief Jan Mellman led for the firm. On the most recent of the two deals, he was supported by IP partner Mark Tooke and corporate assistants Georgina Don and Jenny Hodges in London.

The firm also fielded corporate partners in Thailand and France, and assistants in Italy, Spain, Singapore and Hong Kong. Malaysian firm Rahmat Lim and Australian outfit Gilbert + Tobin also advised due to their ties with WFW.

Eversheds advised Reckitt Benckiser, with corporate partner Richard Lewis leading on the deal. He was assisted by senior associates Penny Stanfield and Richard Kyle. Principal associate Emma Cassie advised on IP aspects and partner Ben Jones on tax. Corporate partner Antoine Martin led from Eversheds’ Paris office, while its Milan and Madrid offices also had a hand in the transaction.

Aurelius’ legal team is headed up by group general counsel Frank Forster, alongside Ruoff. In her new role, Whitaker reports directly into Ruoff, who is based in Munich.