SH loses £20m Ablyazov role to Addleshaws

Stephenson Harwood (SH) has been ditched as adviser to the ousted chairman of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank Mukhtar Ablyazov, in favour of Addleshaw Goddard.

The move will come as a major blow to SH, which has fielded five partners to advise on the defence of a multibillion-dollar case being pursued against Ablyazov by the bailed out Kazakh lender.

In January The Lawyer revealed the case to be one of the largest ongoing legal battles spilling out of the financial crisis, with 50 top lawyers involved, including 22 partners plus 32 barristers including eight QCs (The Lawyer, 3 January).

SH partners Roland Foord, Alan Bercow, Louis Flannery, Stuart Firth and Richard Gwynne were instructed. Sources close to the case claim the firm billed in excess of £20m to the client in 2010, but this was not the sole driver for the move.

“It was felt they weren’t being ferocious enough,” the source claimed.

SH posted a rise in revenue of 16 per cent at the latest financial year-end to break the £100m barrier for the first time.

Addleshaws filed papers at the High Court earlier this month informing it of the switch.

Head of litigation Richard Leedham, who will lead the case, is in the process of assembling a team of at least five partners including Ian Hargreaves, Jon Tweedale and Jamie Harrison.

BTA, whose creditors include RBS, Barclays and Morgan Stanley, claims Ablyazov conspired to siphon money from the bank through a series of fake loans and share sales before fleeing from Kazakhstan to London.

SH declined to comment.