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Oppenhoff & Rädler's New York head Thomas Verhoeven is quitting for US firm Kirkland & Ellis.
Verhoeven is leaving the US to join Kirkland & Ellis' London practice in January. He was an equity partner at Oppenhoffs and will fill the same position at Kirkland & Ellis. He was at Oppenhoffs for 22 years.
Oppenhoffs became the first Linklaters & Alliance member firm to vote in favour of merger earlier this year. Verhoeven says this is not why he is leaving, although he did abstain from the merger vote. He says: "I'd decided to leave, so I thought that I shouldn't vote for or against because the people who were staying should make that decision.'
Kirkland & Ellis London corporate partner Stuart Mills says Verhoeven's appointment is part of the firm's continued push into European private equity work. He also envisages more Europeanfocused staff joining the firm on the back of Verhoeven's appointment. "A very significant proportion of our practice is private equity work. But to provide [our clients] with the level of service they require, we'll need to have more non-US capability in the firm," Mills says.
It will be Verhoeven's first job in London and he has no intention of returning to his native Germany in the foreseeable future. He says he did not specifically target London - Kirkland & Ellis originally offered a partnership only in the UK.
He says: "[Kirkland & Ellis] are serving the European private equity market from London. They are expecting a big boom in Europe - specifically in Germany, because of the changes to the tax laws."
Oppenhoffs has witnessed a range of partner departures since voting for a 1 January 2001 merger with Linklaters.
US firm Hogan & Hartson will take the largest percentage of departing lawyers, including leading telecoms partner Christoph Wagner, when it opens in Berlin in the new year (The Lawyer, 14 August). Senior partner Peter Raue has also left the firm.
But Verhoeven stresses that his departure is on friendly terms. A few "very personal clients" will go with him, but the majority of his work will come from Kirkland & Ellis' existing client base.
Kirkland & Ellis has offices across the US, including Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
London is the firm's only overseas office. It opened in 1995 and now has 20 fee-earners servicing mainly US clients. (See Brief Encounter on page 17.)