Lathams snares Weil Gotshal banking head

Weil Gotshal & Manges‘ head of banking James Chesterman has left the firm to join Latham & Watkins.

He is the second partner arrival at Lathams’ UK office in the space of a week. GE Capital’s European general counsel Kevin Dunn recently announced his decision to join Lathams’ acquisition finance department, where he will be joined by Chesterman (The Lawyer, 7 August).

Chesterman, who helped set up Weil Gotshal’s London office in 1995, says: “I think Lathams is a great firm that’s going places. It’s got a well-defined strategy post-Ash-ursts and it is targeting markets where its clients say it needs to be.”

Weil Gotshal’s managing partner Mike Francies concedes that Chesterman’s decision to leave is a blow for the firm but says that it is not a surprise.

He says: “He saw the department leave and said he didn’t have the energy to rebuild it.”

Francies says that the firm already began looking for banking partners in June, and he had hoped that Chesterman would again build up the area.

Francies says: “He said that he was very happy to cooperate with the search and we hoped he would change his mind [about leaving]. But with people leaving in the banking department it was emotionally shattering for him.”

Chesterman’s departure comes just as Weil Gotshal closes one of the most complex debt financings in the office’s five-year history.

Chesterman was in-structed by Chase Manhattan and Barclays Capital on a $1.2bn (£800m) financing package for the leveraged buyout of VEBA Electronics – including senior debt, high-yield and a receivables securitisation. Clifford Chance advised Schroder Ventures on the deal.

Weil Gotshal was chosen because it was one of the few London offices which could handle the different levels of debt, as well as having a dual US/UK capability.

Although Weil Gotshal retains securitisation and capital markets partners such as Jacky Kelly and Erica Handling, the loss of Chesterman causes a hole on Weil Gotshal’s banking side. His departure leaves Weil Gotshal’s London office with 15 to 20 UK banking lawyers.

Chesterman’s exit is the latest in a series from Weil Gotshal since Maurice Allen’s departure in January for White & Case. Allen has recruited 14 former colleagues from Weil Gotshal to build up an acquisition finance practice.

Lathams’ London managing partner Joe Blum says: “A lot of our clients in investment banking want ‘one-stop shopping’. We have strong high-yield capability and we are keen to develop acquisition finance.”

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