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SJ Berwin is hiring a team of private equity and venture capital lawyers from Baker & McKenzie to set up an office in Munich.
The City firm already has offices in Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels and Madrid, and sources claim that it will soon be announcing the opening of a Paris office.
The team will be made up of eight lawyers, including Baker & McKenzie's former head of venture capital Uwe Steininger and partner André Gloede. A third partner, Frank Vogel, will join SJ Berwin's office in Berlin.
Uwe Steininger is a corporate transactional lawyer with a tax background. He has known SJ Berwin for a number of years and they already share some clients. Gloede is a tax partner, and the rest of the team are transactional lawyers.
The move is part of SJ Berwin's global strategy to create a presence in all of the major European centres. "It represents a further important stage in our highly focused expansion in Europe and our stated aim to be the leading European deals firm," says SJ Berwin's senior partner David Harrel.
The private equity market in Germany is already booming. It is likely to grow further when the 2001 tax reforms take place, which make companies exempt from paying rates on chargeable gains.
"Setting up funds is a buoyant market, so it's just as well that there's less activity on the buyout front," says Tony Tulloch, partner at the German branch of the firm, SJ Berwin Knopf Tulloch. "We need to create a bigger capacity and it's good that they're joining us."
Since SJ Berwin entered the European market in May 1998, it has focused its European practice on venture capital, private equity, M&A and tax. According to figures from the European Venture Capital Association, the level of funds raised in Germany has risen from £1bn in 1998 to nearly £3bn in 1999.
SJ Berwin's head of private equity Jonathan Blake says: "Munich is the centre of venture capital. It is therefore very important for us to open an office there." The firm already has a substantial private equity practice in Frankfurt.
Walter Henle, who has taken over as head of venture capital at Baker & McKenzie, says his firm has a very strong private equity practice, and the departure of Steininger and his team will not mean much to the group as a whole. "We continue to have a strong impact on the private equity market and we have a large source of loyal clients. I see no reason why that will change," he says.
Following the opening of the Munich office, SJ Berwin will operate in Germany under the name SJ Berwin Knopf Tulloch Steininger.