Ashurst loses two real estate partners to Macfarlanes and Simmons

Ashurst real estate partner Matthew Hooton has quit the firm, making him the second partner to leave the practice in as many weeks.

Hooton is expected to leave the firm to join Simmons & Simmons’ real estate practice in coming months.

His exit follows that of partner Anthony Burnett-Scott, who is joining Macfarlane’s commercial real estate practice. Burnett-Scott will join former Ashurst construction head Ann Minogue who joined Macfarlanes in August (12 August 2013).

The pair will be reunited with former Ashurst managing partner Ian Nisse, who moved to Shearman & Sterling in 2004, before joining Macfarlanes in September 2011 (9 September 2011).

Combined Ashurst’s real estate and construction practices have seen seven partners leave since September 2011. At last count, the combined teams had a presence of 20 partners in the City.

The raft of exits include Ashurst’s former head of European real estate Simon Cookson, who moved to DLA Piper in 2011 (9 September 2011). The following month, Ashurst’s non-contentious construction head Marc Hanson left the firm for Berwin Leighton Paisner (3 October 2011), while real estate litigation chief Michael Madden headed to Winston & Strawn (13 October 2011) and construction partner Alex Cunliffe took an in-house role with engineering giant Bechtel (22 November 2011). More recently, Martin Wright jumped ship to become Mayer Brown’s European real estate head (15 November 2012).

Ashurst’s London real estate head London Richard Vernon said: “The key thing from my perspective is that although these two partners are leaving in close proximity to each other, and not in accordance with firm strategy – people move.”

He continued: “From our perspective, our strategy is to continue to grow. The combined firm has specifically identified real estate as an area of growth and there’s major excitement about the practice’s future.”

The firm bolted on seven new real estate partners as a result of its recent full merger with Ashurst Australia (26 September 2013). The practice made up three new partners in London over the last 18 months – a practice which Vernon said will continue at the rate of at least one partner promotion annually over the next few years.

Ashurst also hired lateral partner Iain Travers from Nabarro to head its real estate litigation practice in September 2012 (21 September 2012).

In addition to Burnett-Scott and Minogue, Macfarlanes has also added Claire Breeze to its commercial real estate ranks in recent months. The firm is making an effort to boost the practice after it was consumed by the corporate, litigation and private client groups in 2010. During the process it lost partners Ian Ginbey to Clyde & Co and Richard Reuben to Fladgate (4 March 2011).

Macfarlanes’ senior partner Charles Martin said in a statement: “Anthony represents an important step in the rebuilding of our commercial property team.”