Simmons’ Italian slowdown

Back in 2000, Simmons was at the height of its development in Italy. A staggering 85-90 per cent of its clients were Italian, business was booming, its brand was growing and the living was easy.
Simmons was reaping the rewards of moving into Italy early. It formed an alliance with Grippo e Associati in 1993 and merged in 1997. Bearing in mind that Clifford Chance took until 2000 to sign an Italian merger, Simmons was doing remarkably well.
But since then, it has suffered some serious partner losses, including most of the old guard from the Grippo merger. Name partner Eugenio Grippo himself went to Linklaters ally Gianni Origoni. Another particularly heavy blow was the loss of financial markets partner Manfredi Vianini Tolomei to Chiomenti in 2002.
Every departure had its own story. Not surprisingly, however, sources close to the practice stress the London management’s ongoing failure to address Simmons’ relatively low profitability. With the Italian offices outperforming the firmwide average, why stick around when you can earn more at a domestic firm or a US start-up?
All is not lost for Simmons’ Italian practice. This year’s deal list so far includes private equity transactions for 3i and Private Equity Partners, securitisation and structured securities work for Centrobanca and Banca Popolare di Cremona, and several acquisition finance deals for UniCredito. Corporate activity included advising the Royal Dutch Shell group on its acquisition of 86 retail sites from Agip in Italy.
What Simmons will need is a powerful relaunch to reassure its own staff it is not out of the running.