Addleshaw Goddard has recruited its first-ever chief operating officer (COO) from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

The firm fuelled merger rumours back in May, as it revealed it was seeking a COO candidate with experience of running an operations team during a merger.

Addleshaws today announced it has hired Freshfields’ German and Austrian COO Axel Koelsch, who joined the magic circle firm in 2010 from Hogan Lovells.

Koelsch headed up legacy Lovells’ Continental Europe operations during its transatlantic merger with Hogan Hartson and was also Linklaters’ head of strategy between 2002 and 2004.

He joins Addleshaws in February next year, where he will become a member of the firm’s five-strong executive team headed by managing partner John Joyce.

Other members include CFO Colin Brown, executive partners Adrian Collins and Michael Leftley and general counsel Simon Callander.

The new COO will be responsible for helping to create and deliver Addleshaws’ business strategy as well as managing its major change programmes. The job advertisement also pointed towards “a role in potential mergers”.

At the end of November, Addleshaw Goddard announced it was merging with Scottish firm HBJ Gateley. In a recent interview with The Lawyer, Joyce said: “We had been losing work because our clients wanted a firm that had a Scottish presence.

“We were the only firm of our type that didn’t have a presence there. In hindsight we were a bit later than we should have been.”