Simmons pledges to boost profits after Woffenden exit

Simmons & Simmons’ corporate and commercial chief has vowed to hike the department’s profitability after the shock resignation of respected department head Ken Woffenden.

Woffenden has raised eyebrows with his decision to join 22-partner Guildford firm Stevens & Bolton.

Woffenden is a former managing partner of Simmons’ Hong Kong office and more recently was credited with overseeing two major restructurings of the corporate practice: when it brought its corporate finance and transactions groups under one budget last year, and when corporate and commercial merged in May after Peter Freeman’s move to the Competition Commission. Both steps were aimed at developing synergies between groups.

Woffenden, who is close to clients including Vivendi Water UK and Gallaher Group, was re-appointed department head until 2005, but said: “I will be 50 next year and I feel the time is right after 27 years here to try something new in a different type of firm.”

He added: “Stevens & Bolton is offering a very high-quality, City-style service coupled with value for money because it has lower overheads. It is also 10 minutes from my front door.”

Corporate partner Damon Le Maitre-George will succeed Woffenden in January. He said: “My priority is to increase the profitability of the department. It’s been a difficult trading climate, but we’ve learnt a lot in that time about how to better market ourselves.”

Sources at the firm said that pressure was on the group’s commercial partners in particular, as their profits fell below the firmwide average of £300,000 in the last financial year.