BLP management rejig sparks client base shift

BLP shake-up sees firm facing up to a world of changed priorities

Chris de Pury
De Pury: looking East

First corporate head John Bennett moves to an international role. Then real estate head Robert MacGregor becomes chairman, to be replaced by Chris de Pury. Berwin Leighton Paisner(BLP) is seeing a generational shift in its departmental leadership.

At least de Pury’s accession continues a tradition. Both MacGregor and de Pury were high-profile laterals brought in on huge guarantees of over £1m, MacGregor arriving in 2004 from Clifford Chance and de Pury in 2007 from Herbert Smith.

De Pury is adamant there will be some differences.

“Robert has done a good job at getting people going in the same direction,” he says. “He’s a hard act to follow and it would be impossible if I were another Robert.”

De Pury represents a symbolic shift in client base. While MacGregor’s constituency was listed property companies such as Canary Wharf, de Pury’s client stronghold includes Asian investors, notably Korean and Malaysian funds.

And de Pury’s job is infinitely harder than MacGregor’s was. MacGregor arrived at the start of a bull market that propelled the firm into the silver circle. The real estate practice turned over £64.1m in 2011 and dipped to £62m in 2012 – not bad considering economic conditions, but de Pury will have to lead his group in a declining market. The fact the firm has made up only one partner in real estate this year shows that, despite its new Asian clients, it expects precious little top-line growth in its marquee practice.