Weil Gotshal hires restructuring guru Andrew Wilkinson from Goldman

Weil Gotshal & Manges has lured Goldman Sachs star Andrew Wilkinson back into legal practice to boost its pan-European restructuring business.  

Wilkinson, who was voted in by the Weil Gotshal partnership on Friday (4 April), will join the US firm at the end of this month.

 In 1997 Wilkinson left Clifford Chance, where he had been head of restructuring, to launch Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft’s London office. During his time at Cadwalader he built up the market’s leading distressed debt practice, focusing largely on bondholders (12 March 2007). In 2007 he left legal practice to join Goldman Sachs as co-head of European restructuring (8 March 2007).

Weil London managing partner Mike Francies told The Lawyer that the Wilkinson hire was designed to build out the pan-European practice. He said: “We’ve been so busy in London we haven’t addressed the European co-ordination.” 

Weil restructuring head Adam Plainer said: “We’ve done MF Global and Lehmans, but we haven’t jumped into as many company-side mandates as we’d like. Andrew has a black book of public and private companies across Europe.”

Wilkinson will not be displacing Adam Plainer as restructuring head, but will not report up to him. Plainer said: “We run a flat structure – I run the group, but to suggest that Andrew is going to come in and report to me suggests we have a reporting line – it’s just not a big-firm mentality.”

Weil Gotshal & Manges is one of the leading bankruptcy practices in the US, but its European bench has not so far matched that of its private equity and acquisition finance practices. 

The firm’s hire of Jones Day restructuring head Adam Plainer three years ago (26 January 2011) was its first step to build a European practice to match its US franchise. A year later Weil added Alexander Wood from Hogan Lovells (23 July 2012). 

Its biggest mandate over the last few years has been the lead role on MF Global (9 January 2013) on which it billed £15m (11 December 2012).

The hire of Wilkinson, which was brokered by consultants SSQ, represents a new direction for Weil’s lateral investment. Over the past three years it has focused on funds and finance. In 2011 it recruited acquisition finance partner Stephen Lucas from Linklaters (31 May 2011), a four-partner funds team from Clifford Chance the following month (13 June 2011), and in 2012 it hired high-yield partner Gil Strauss from Freshfields (7 December 2012).

US firms in London have shown some appetite to hire restructuring lawyers over the past two years Marquee hires include Chris Howard, who moved to Sullivan & Cromwell from Linklaters (23 May 2013), and another Linklaters partner Yushan Ng, who joined Cadwalader (11 September 2012). 

Wilkinson’s return to private practice from Goldman has some precedent. In 2009 Kirkland & Ellis rehired restructuring star James Sprayregen from Goldman, where he had spent three years (1 December 2008