Shearman hikes global tax practice with four partners
26 November 2001
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In the US, the head of rival White & Case's tax practice Mitchell Menaker and fellow partner Michael Dunworth will both join the firm's leasing practice.
In London the firm has nabbed another magic circle partner with the hire of Allen & Overy tax partner Michael McGowan to launch a City tax practice.
And in Germany, tax partner Gottfried Breuninger and his team join from rival firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Breuninger has left Cleary Gottlieb's office in Frankfurt and will join Shearman's existing three-partner tax group in Munich.
Menaker and Dunworth both specialise in structuring and negotiating international and US facility and project financing and leasing transactions. Between them they boast clients such as Citibank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and the Bank of New York, all of which they share with Shearman.
They will join the firm's leasing group, although Menaker will continue his general tax practice. The leasing practice at Shearman is headed by William Flowers.
The London head of Shearman's UK practice Kenneth MacRitchie said: "We have a huge share of the international leasing market and we've been looking to make sure that business is protected as time progresses. A number of our partners are getting older, so we need to continue expansion."
Breuninger is one of the most prominent tax lawyers in Germany and has established a highly visible tax practice both in the domestic market and in the US and Europe.
He specialises in German corporate and M&A tax and has a number of high-profile clients, including General Electric, Preussag and Karstadt/Schickedanz. His clients are expected to move with him.
He made the move to Shearman because he likes its strategy. "I want to work in a firm that has a good position in the domestic market but which is also a real international firm," he said.
He said he was not concerned by Shearman's current troubles in New York, which have led to the layoff of 10 per cent of its associates worldwide.
"My move is a long-term decision and I think the situation will get better," Breuninger said.
Breuninger was Cleary's first lateral hire in Germany when he joined the firm from Oppenhoff & Rädler (now Linklaters Oppenhoff & Rädler) in March 2000.
However, following his departure, the firm will be left with just four German-qualified partners, and two US partners who split their time between the firm's European offices.
A source close to the firm said its strategy is at fault and its desire to grow organically has inhibited development. Although it has a strong presence in capital markets, it has failed to grow significantly in corporate and M&A.
In London, McGowan is the second magic circle partner to move to Shearman this year, joining competition partner Chris Bright, who moved over from Clifford Chance.
McGowan focuses on corporate tax transactions, having acted on the 1996 and 1997 takeover bids for Northern Electricity and Yorkshire Electricity, the first 1997 Canary Wharf property securitisation and the 1999 flotation of Canary Wharf.
MacRitchie said: "Both Michael McGowan and Chris Bright have given a vote of confidence that we're going to get where we want to be on the M&A side. Both their practices are dependent on us growing that substantially. This gives us another building block to go out to the M&A partners in the magic circle and beyond and say, 'Now we've got cutting-edge tax and cutting-edge competition, come and join us'."