Linklaters loses grip on EU tax expertise as final Dutch specialist leaves for PwC

Linklaters has suffered another blow to its European tax practice with the loss of its last remaining Dutch tax partner.

Linklaters has suffered another blow to its European tax practice with the loss of its last remaining Dutch tax partner.

Stef van Weeghel, who was based in the firm’s Amsterdam office, has left to take up an in-house role with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is a key tax jurisdiction, with companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever and AkzoNobel headquartered there.

Linklaters lost another tax partner from its European practice in March when Brussels-based tax partner Thierry Denayer joined Herbert Smith ally Stibbe as head of tax. Denayer had been a Linklaters partner since 2002, when the magic circle firm merged with De Bandt.

Linklaters’ Netherlands managing partner Martijn Koopal denied that the firm was shifting its focus away from tax and said he would be hiring a replacement for Weeghel.

He added: “One of the areas we’re looking to develop in Holland is tax. He will be replaced.”

Weeghel, who was an equity partner at Linklaters, joined the firm in September 2007 from Stibbe, where he headed the tax practice and had been a partner for 14 years.

He was hired to launch and run Linklaters’ tax practice in the Netherlands. His arrival coincided with the launch of an employment practice. Former Simmons & Simmons partner Eunice Bruyninckx joined Linklaters at the same time.

Weeghel joins PwC as a tax partner, and will lead a team of between 20 and 30 tax professionals servicing Netherlands-based multinational companies.

He said he had left Link­laters on good terms, adding: “All my life I have been in a law firm environment where tax is a relatively small part of the firm. Now, I’m in an environment where tax advisers make up around a third of the overall firm. It’s a great opportunity.”

Weeghel’s departure leaves Linklaters with seven partners in Amsterdam but no tax specialists. The branch focuses on corporate, banking and capital markets work.

Linklaters has had a local law practice in the Netherlands since 2004, when it hired Allen & Overy capital markets partner Pim Horsten. It previously operated an alliance with Dutch firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek but the ­association ended in 2002 when merger talks between the two broke down.

However, Linklaters teamed up with De Brauw again on Royal Bank of Scotland’s bid for ABN Amro. Linklaters acted for RBS while De Brauw represented Fortis, which was part of the bidding banking consortium.

There has been speculation about the future of Linklaters’ European offices following the launch of its New World restructuring programme, which will lead to the loss of up to 70 partners. The firm is intent on being a smaller and more profitable operation, focussing on a smaller number of key global clients.

But Koopal said Linklaters was still fully committed to the Netherlands, adding: “The strategy is still the same – to focus on premium clients.”