The london offices of US firms have poached two key partners from Wilde Sapte's London and Brussels office.
Crowell & Moring has hired the managing partner of Wilde Sapte's Brussels office, James Ashe-Taylor. He is joining the London office as a competition partner.
Peter Teare, partner in the London office of Crowell & Moring, says: "Ashe-Taylor was targeted because we have a strong antitrust practice in the US, and US multinationals now want advice in Europe."
Meanwhile, Weil Gotshal & Manges has lured Wilde Sapte project finance partner Bruce Johnston from the firm's London office to head the firm's project finance department.
Johnston claims he built Wilde Sapte's project finance practice from scratch. "Before I joined, they didn't have a project finance practice, and I have built it into one of the leading project finance practices in the City," he claims.
He says the effect on Wilde Sapte's project finance practice will depend on how the firm reacts to his departure.
But Howard Barrie, head of project finance at Wilde Sapte, says: "Bruce, along with a number of the rest of us, helped build the practice, and we have many capable people who will continue working with us."
Johnston's contract ties him to Wilde Sapte until December 2001. Barrie says: "Bruce is continuing to work on matters on which he has been instructed and he'll stay here until his notice expires."
Johnston says that he believes Wilde Sapte is about to merge with another firm - thought to be Baker & McKenzie - which, under the terms of the partnership agreement, would free him to leave the firm earlier.