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Shipping firm Clyde & Co has head-hunted Penningtons' two leading energy partners Martin Byatt and Michelle Dunne.
Byatt was head of Penningtons' corporate department. Dunne was head of its natural resources unit. Byatt, who joined Penningtons with Dunne in 1993 when his niche natural resources practice merged with the firm, said: "When you have international oil companies as clients the logic of being in partnership with a major shipping practice is inescapable."
Byatt said that Clyde & Co could provide the corporate, banking and project backing that Penningtons could not. "All oil, gas and mineral projects need money," he said.
Accountancy firm Binder Hamlyn led Penningtons through a major re-structuring last year after it ran into financial difficulties largely because of the high rents on its former offices in Dashwood House. It shed partners and staff and concentrated on a few core niche areas, including energy.
Penningtons' managing partner Lesley Lintott said the firm still had an energy consultant and two lawyers with energy expertise. This spring, before Byatt departed, the firm re-united its commercial and corporate departments under the leadership of Ron Allsopp who had been head before the two departments were split in 1995.
"There was so much overlap between the work of the two departments," said Lintott, "that we thought we may as well combine them again".
Penningtons has just recruited Thomas Cooper Stibbard corporate partner Richard Tyson. Clyde & Co has also recruited Titmuss Sainer Dechert corporate partner Andrew Holderness and Tim Matthews, senior commercial lawyer at the brewer Bass.