SJ Berwin strategists freed up as Blake secures top job

SJ Berwin is to refocus on its strategic review and international links after Jonathan Blake was confirmed as the firm’s next senior partner.

Blake, currently head of European corporate finance and private equity, will take over as senior partner at the silver circle firm in May 2006, replacing outgoing senior partner of 13 years David Harrel.

Blake was officially appointed to the role after a discrete ballot for a joint-ticket proposal was completed last Monday (12 December). As part of the joint proposal, Ralph Cohen will continue as managing partner, with an expanded range of responsibilities. The decision follows five months of arduous consultation on the appointments and the structure of the two roles. Its finalisation frees up the strategy committee to refocus on winding-up its strategic review and paring down the US best friends referral network.

Blake denied that this would lead to a widely speculated transatlantic merger, but admitted that SJ Berwin was looking to “rationalise” its relationships with US firms “to a few”.

Blake said he expected his role as senior partner to be largely outward-facing and strategy and client-related, while Cohen would take on primary responsibility for the management of the firm.

This advances significantly Cohen’s current responsibilities: under the direction of Harrel, his role, which was only created in May 2002, has remained largely administrative.

It is understood that Harrel plans to retire in two years, until which time he will work in a consultancy role.