The London office of New York firm Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy opened with a bang in 1994. The firm took project finance partners Nick Buckworth and Kenneth MacRitchie from Clifford Chance to launch one of London's first multinational partnerships – matching beautifully with the US expertise – but most of it disappeared in 1996.
Buckworth, MacRitchie, Cal Miller and Stephen Peppiatt left for Shearman & Sterling, leaving office managing partner Phillip Fletcher.
The firm drafted in capital markets partner Tom Siebens from Singapore with the aim of rebuilding the office, and then it decided that such a project finance focus might not be the way to proceed.
Only this year have things taken off. In the last 10 months the firm has upped its partner count to seven.
The M&A practice boasts partner Michael Goroff, drafted in from the New York office in 1999. He was joined in January by Ken Mildwaters, the former group legal director at drinks giant Diageo.
In project finance there's now two partners, Fletcher and John Dewar, who focus on project and structured finance transactions. They are helped by tax partner Russell Jacobs who, as the most recent arrival, joined from the London office of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft in July.
But the real growth of the last year is in capital markets. The first new capital markets partner to arrive in March was Kevin Muzilla, a European high-yield capital markets partner, drafted in from Cahill Gordon & Reindel in New York, where he was a senior lawyer. He was later joined by Cadwalader capital markets and securitisation partner John Walker.
Muzilla brought with him strong relationships in Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan which, coupled with Goroff's friendship with Goldman Sachs, have got the London office involved in some of Europe's biggest leveraged buyouts this year.
The firm is still doing high-yield work for JP Morgan on Doughty Hanson's leveraged buyout of Ranks Hovis McDougall. It's taking the same role for Deutsche on the United Biscuits deal, where a debt of £1,417.5m will secure the company for joint bidders Finalrealm and Burlington.
Capital markets may be ticking over, but what about projects?
The firm advised Goldmans on a £400m issue of investment grade bonds for Drax – the largest coal-fired power plant in Western Europe. It was the first bank/bond financing in the UK project market, and it was done alongside £250m of sterling and US dollar high-yield bonds via Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette.