Weil Gotshal hit by exodus to Ashursts

Crack capital markets team quits US firms London office: Fried Frank to fill Ashursts’ US gap

The London office of Weil Gotshal & Manges has suffered another massive blow with the departure of a core team to Ashurst Morris Crisp.

A group of three capital markets partners, led by Erica Handling, is moving with at least one assistant to Ashursts. Specialising in straight capital markets, securitisation and structured finance, the group gives a huge boost to Ashursts’ finance practice.

The two partners moving with Handling are Kate Lamburn and Siân Withey. Handling has made a name for herself specialising in collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) with a practice billing of more than £2m a year. Her biggest clients include Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Nomura and JP Morgan.

Weil Gotshal now only has two capital markets partners Jacky Kelly and Christian Smith in London, who focus on securitisation work.

Handling worked on the first wholly euro-denominated CDO in 1999, advising Morgan Stanley on the structuring of holding company Eurocredit. While working on the deal, she met Ashursts capital markets partner Michael Smith for the first time, who advised the collateral manager. The move sprang from that meeting.

Handling says: “This move enables us to raise our practice to the next level by giving us more partner resources, more European offices and an infrastructure in things such as tax.”

The new group will work with Ashursts’ London-based capital markets partners Richard Kendall and Gonzalo Fernandez, as well as with Smith. But the gap will be Ashursts’ lack of US law capability.

Handling says: “The US side is important from a client perspective because a lot of the deals have a US component, but in terms of how much you need people on a day-to-day basis, it’s probably not as important as you’d expect.”

She says that the group will use existing relationships with US law firms, including a long-established link with New York firm Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.