Weil high yield star Strauss returns to Simpson Thacher as equity partner

Four years ago, in July 2010, Simpson Thacher lost an up-and-coming high yield counsel to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, having passed him by for partnership (26 July 2010). 

Just over four years later, and Gil Strauss is strolling back through the firm’s door as an equity partner. 

During his time away from the firm, Strauss embarked on quite a journey. Despite not being a partner at Simpson Thacher, he was welcomed straight into the equity at the magic circle firm. He lasted just two years before being tempted over to Weil Gotshal & Manges in early 2013 (7 December 2012). A little over a year later, and Strauss has upped sticks again – moving back to his original firm. 

No doubt the news will come as a blow to Weil, whose partnership has sprung some noticeable leaks over the past few years. 

The firm waved goodbye to private equity rainmaker Mark Soundy in May 2013, alongside tax partner Sarah Priestley and up-and-coming associate Simon Burrows (15 May 2013). The trio resurfaced at Shearman & Sterling having pocketed work for a bunch of their existing clients including Permira, Arle and Bridgepoint. 

The most recent exit came in the form of renowned debt finance partner Stephen Lucas in May 2014 (20 May 2014). Among the biggest names in the European leveraged finance space, Lucas was reportedly enticed to Kirkland & Ellis with an offer thought to be close to the £8m mark. 

According to market sources, it was Lucas who had originally rallied hard to bring Strauss into the partnership at Weil back in 2012. Lucas was relatively new to the firm himself having joined the previous year, and the ambitious partner was keen to build an enviable debt finance practice. 

It helped that Weil’s private equity co-head Marco Compagnoni was understood to have been in favour of the move. Bulking up the firm’s high yield capability would only serve to maintain credibility with key clients such as Advent – one of Compagnoni’s longstanding relationships. 

At the time, the firm’s high yield practice consisted largely of current partner David Meredith and Rob Ferguson – a partner who left Weil last year to pursue a business degree. However, the firm lacked the reputation for high yield forged by the likes of Shearman & Sterling and Latham & Watkins

As Freshfields’ high yield head, Strauss had built quite a name for himself over the past two years. And picking up Lucas from Linklaters and Strauss from Freshfields in such quick succession marked quite a coup for Weil’s growing practice. 

Lucas’ exit just three months ago is thought to have inspired Strauss to investigate his other options. And despite Weil making some key hires this year, including former Clifford Chance restructuring guru Andrew Wilkinson from Goldman Sachs, its practice is a different beast to the one that Strauss signed up to in 2013 (7 April 2014). The departure of both Lucas and Strauss will no doubt leave a gaping hole at Weil – one which the firm will be seeking to fill.

On the other side of the fence, Simpson Thacher has been pretty successful in bulking up its sponsor-side practice over the past few years. When Strauss returns to the firm next month, he’ll be working alongside familiar faces including high yield partners Nick Shaw and Mark Brod. The latter of which was made up to partner in the firm’s 2011 promotions round – the year after Strauss packed his bags for Freshfields (29 November 2011). 

He will also support the firm’s private equity team, which features the likes of high-profile partner Adam Signy and former Allen & Overy private equity co-head Derek Baird who joined just last year (8 November 2012). 

Now that high yield accounts for an ever-increasing chunk of the European debt market, the firm may well be rueing its decision to skip him for partnership the first time round. A couple of years older and wiser, and with a wealth of high yield experience under his belt, Strauss has become an asset worth paying for to Simpson Thacher.

For more, see our blog on Stephen Lucas’ move to Kirkland & Ellis