News in brief

Watkins sports new FIFA role
Maurice Watkins (left), senior partner of Manchester firm James Chapman & Co and a director of Manchester United FC, has been appointed to the new FIFA dispute resolution chamber. The chamber consists of representatives from football clubs and leagues across the world. It will be involved in resolving contractual disputes between clubs and players and the imposition of sporting sanctions and financial compensation. Watkins will adjudicate on issues arising from football transfer regulations for FIFA.
Stephenson Harwood forms asset finance team
Stephenson Harwood has created a banking and asset finance group. The decision unites the firm's banking and shipping finance practices to form a single asset finance team. The move has been described by the firm as being part of its strategy to focus on international financial markets. The new group will benefit from six dedicated partners among its 23 fee-earners. Four of the six partners switch from the shipping finance group, while the other two come from the banking group. Former shipping partner Mark Russell will lead the new group.
Osborne Clarke gives plum role to film/TV ace
Osborne Clarke has boosted its banking practice with the hire of a former head of legal and business affairs at Hat Trick Productions. Media finance specialist Philip Alberstat joins the firm's London office as a partner after leaving Coudert Brothers, where he was an associate. Hat Trick had previously headhunted him from Baker & McKenzie in 2000. Alberstat specialises in film and television financing and the sale and financing of film and media companies.
Lupton Fawcett hires debt recovery specialist
Lupton Fawcett has hired Spencer Ewin Mulvihill partner Ian Furness (right). Furness is a commercial litigation and debt recovery specialist. His arrival take the number of partners at Leeds-based Lupton Fawcett to 22.
Simmons continues with German drive
Simmons & Simmons has further expanded its German practice with a partner hire from the Düsseldorf office of Haarmann Hemmelrath & Partner. Franz-Josef Schöne specialises in M&A and also brings extensive experience in telecoms, multimedia and public commercial law. He advised on the privatisations of the Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Hanover airports. Schöne's arrival at the office coincides with that of corporate partner Stefan Weinheimer and litigation partner Hans-Herman Aldenhoff, who were both previously partners at Beiten Burkhardt Mittl & Wegener. Simmons now has five partners in Germany and expects to open in Frankfurt during the first half of this year.
Charles Russell lures Rooks Ryder partner
Charles Russell has appointed a new partner from Rooks Ryder into its media and corporate finance teams. Kier Gordon has background in corporate finance transactions, particularly for media companies. He will work across the firm's corporate finance and media teams under group heads Simon Gilbert (corporate finance) and Mark Moncreiffe (media).
Houthoff Buruma to launch in London
Houthoff Buruma, the major Dutch firm, is opening an office in London next month. The office will be run by corporate partner Albert Dreese and two Dutch associates. Houthoff's management said that the London office will focus on establishing new relationships with City firms. The firm came close to a merger with City firm Norton Rose in 2001.