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Ashurst has lost two corporate partners to the City office of US firm Kirkland & Ellis.
The Lawyer understands that Gavin Gordon and David Arnold have been placed on gardening leave and that their start date at Kirkland is yet to be finalised.
There have been a number of departures from Ashurst’s corporate practice this year, including long-term partner Andrew Edge (3 March 2010) and private equity specialist Graeme Ward (13 January 2010).
The firm’s senior management was earlier this year forced to defend it strategy at a crisis meeting following partner exits and complaints over what was seen as limited opportunities for promotion (29 March 2010).
Gordon and Arnold are believed to have been offered salaries of well over £1m in return for defecting to Kirkland, and it is understood that Ashurst was not prepared to renegotiate their contracts.
Both have experience advising private equity houses and corporate clients in leveraged buyouts, mergers, acquisitions and financings. Their key clients have included Blackstone, Candover, Apax Partners, LGV Capital and Hutton Collins.
Gordon recently led the team working on Merlin Entertainments’ funding and development of Legoland in Florida (1 February 2010), and British Midland’s £300m sale to Lufthansa.
Arnold, who was promoted to partner last year (22 April 2009), recently worked on Apax Partners’ $830m (£572.33m) buyout of IT security company Sophos, and Cinven’s €536m (£454.87m) acquisition of Coor Service Management.
Kirkland’s firmwide management committee chair Jeffrey Hammes said: “With complementary clients, significant cross-border experience and a stellar reputation in the London market, Gavin and David are a natural match for Kirkland and we’re very pleased to have them on board.
“We look forward to their contributions to our London team as our footprint in Europe continues to grow.”
Ashurst senior partner Charlie Geffen said: “We’re disappointed they’re leaving us and we wish them very well in their future careers.”