Brief encounter: debevoise & Plimpton

The London office of New York firm Debevoise & Plimpton opened in 1989 and now boasts 28 lawyers, five of whom are partners. The practice covers corporate M&A work, international arbitration, international securities offerings and international tax planning.

The firm as a whole has a strong private equity practice, not least in its London office. When long-standing client private equity fund Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) opened in London at the end of last year, the office scooped the work advising on its acquisitions.

CD&R manages an equity capital pool of more than £2bn on behalf of private and public pension funds, college endowments, private foundations, banks and insurance companies. The Debevoise office has just closed the client’s biggest deal in Europe so far – a leveraged buyout alongside Cisco Systems and private equity funds Advent International and Brera Capital Partners for Italian telecoms equipment manufacturer Italtel from Telecom Italia.

The buyout group will acquire 80 per cent of Italtel, with Telecom Italia retaining the rest. CD&R will have a 50.1 per cent interest valued at euro1bn (£610m). Allen & Overy acted for lead bank lender Credito Italiano.

London partner James Kiernan led the deal and is the office’s relationship partner for CD&R. He headed the Paris practice for 12 years before moving to London at the end of 1999 to become managing partner of both offices. After replacing David Smalley, who returned to the US after three years as London managing partner, Kiernan brought the London and Paris offices under his control and they now share staff and resources.

Other corporate partners in the practice are Robert Bruce, who specialises in telecoms law, Andrew Sommer and Katherine Ashton, who is UK qualified.

Bruce’s work has included the privatisation of Portugal Telecom, and before joining Debevoise in 1983 he served as general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission in Washington DC.

The fifth partner in the office is international arbitration expert Arthur Marriott QC, who joined the firm in 1997 from rival US firm Wilmer Cutler & Pickering’s London office. He was one of the first two solicitor advocates to be awarded silk and set up an arbitration unit for the office which had so far used its Paris office and New York partners to handle the work. Clients of the practice include General Electric, Mitsui and Suzuki.

Other clients of the office include private equity funds Providence, which also recently opened in London, and HarbourVest International. The office has also done a lot of work for Waste Management Inc, which is involved in a disposal programme off-loading a number of its international businesses. The office acted for the client on the £380m sale of its UK business to Severn Trent this summer.

Historically, the office has done capital markets work, while M&A work was done out of Paris, but with increasing investment from US private equity clients in Europe the M&A deals are booming out of London.