Freshfields director quits as finance teams merge

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer‘s central management has seen its first shake-up since the election of Guy Morton as senior partner.

Last week the partners were told that managing director Kirk Stephenson had resigned from the firm to pursue other career opportunities. Stephenson joined the firm in 1999 as finance director and, at one point, was seen as a potential contender for chief executive. His duties will be subsumed into new chief executive Ted Burke’s remit.

Former chief executive Hugh Crisp will continue as a partner at the firm, but in a part-time capacity. It is understood that he will be focusing on HR issues.

At the same time, the magic circle firm has completed a major internal rejig by merging the asset finance team with the structured finance group.

Freshfields’ finance division is currently split into asset finance, banking, project finance, restructuring and insolvency and structured finance.

While some Freshfields insiders have told The Lawyer that there has been a “change of emphasis” regarding the asset finance practice, London head of finance and asset finance partner Bob Charlton has defended his practice, stating that there would be no shift away from asset finance, despite the fact that the firm lost its place on the Export Credit Agency panel 18 months ago.

“It’s something I’ve had to fight internally because that was the initial feeling among some of the staff,” he said. “But it’s not true.”

Charlton says the merger of asset finance and structured finance was an exercise in capitalising on the synergies between the two practice areas.

The two groups recently teamed up to advise container shipping company CMA CGM on the first public shipping securitisation by a single operator.

The restructure will also see Freshfields’ insolvency team move to work more closely with the banking group.