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PPM Ventures and Doughty Hanson are scrutinising their future relationship with Lovells after the loss of their client partner.
The doubts surrounding the future of two of Lovells' most high-profile clients springs from the recently announced departure of Allan Murray-Jones, a highly-rated corporate finance partner who specialises in private equity work.
A source close to PPM, which also uses Clifford Chance, says: "We have to consider what our position is. We do have a high regard for Allan. He's clearly been the client partner for a number of years, and we're very comfortable with that."
It is also understood that Doughty Hanson, which sources estimate is a multi-million-pound contributor to the firm's bottom line each year, is in discussions with Murray-Jones to be kept informed of where he is moving to.
While this has not yet been determined, several sources state that Murray-Jones is in discussions with a number of US firms.
Murray-Jones, though, will not comment on where he is going or whether he is in discussions with Doughty Hanson to garner its opinion on where he should move next.
He says: "I'd be surprised if some work does not stay at Lovells. I wouldn't have kept these clients had it not been for all the support that I've had from good people."
Murray-Jones expects that areas such as property finance will stay with Lovells, but he was circumspect on the amount of corporate work that would remain there.
Marco Compagnoni, a corporate finance partner at Lovells, says: "I think Doughty Hanson and PPM know a large number of partners around the firm. One partner couldn't do all the work, especially work of that complexity.
"Allan has said that Doughty Hanson has been looking at its legal resources and looking at its external lawyers. Allan is encouraging [Doughty Hanson] to leave a large part of its work at the firm."
Murray-Jones first began working with Doughty Hanson in 1985 with the then head of banking John Penson, who passed away in March last year. Although Murray-Joneswas not responsible for bringing PPM on board, he was recognised as the client partner for the firm.
Last year, Lovells acted for Doughty Hanson on the highprofile purchase of Rank Hovis McDougall. The firm was also responsible for representing PPM, a minority shareholder in Gala Group Holdings, on its acquisition of Ladbroke's casino division from Hilton Group.