Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has appointed projects and infrastructure head Adam Dann as finance head following the surprise resignation of partner Matthew Kellett last October.
The announcement brings to an end a review of the finance team initiated by Kellett’s resignation at the end of last year (30 October 2013). Dann takes the helm on 10 March after being appointed by the firm’s senior management. He will work with Kellett until taking up the role.
The partner is believed to have strong connections across the firm, having played a role in internal processes like partner appraisals but sources expressed surprise at his appointment.
One said: “I think it’s a bit surprising, not that he’s not a great guy – he has a very strong project practice, oil and gas that kind of thing but because he isn’t what you would consider a straight finance partner.”
His experience contrasts sharply to Kellett, the former head of UK financial structuring at RBS (22 March 2010). As head of the project and infastructure practice since 2010, after four years as the legal manager of UK oil company Hardy Oil & Gas, his focus has been on the energy sector.
However others explained the appointment was a choice based on “personality”. One source commented: “Adam is a lot softer, and I think this is more about the right personality than the area they work in.”
Another said: “People liked him, and he’s a very measured, fair sort of person.”
Kellett’s departure prompted a review into the banking department in conjunction with external consultants in order to assess the opportunities for that practice. Jomati consultatnt and former Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams was brought in to lead the review.
It is believed that the firm had considered merging several areas underneath finance but had decided by the beginning of 2014 to keep them as distinct areas.
One area up for debate was asset finance, headed by partner Russell Clifford, which the firm considered merging with the banking and capital markets group. It is also understood to have flirted with the idea of bringing together more of the sub groups but partners have now been told that this will not go ahead.
Sources said the finance chief would have a tough job to bring together the finance group which is increasingly divided.
One said: “It needs someone who coluld draw them all otgehr and five confidence that it’s going to start going in the right direction.”
The team has suffered notable exits over the past year. Most recently restructuring head Ben Larkin quit, making the third partner to leave for Jones Day (10 February 2014). He had been mooted as a potential successor to Kellett.
Before that the firm saw the departure of private equity star Raymond McKeeve for Jones Day (20 August 2013), which prompted BLP management to defend its corporate offering (20 August 2013). Jones Day also picked up corporate finance partner Michael Weir (8 October 2013).
Other recent departures from BLP’s finance department include partner Richard Todd, moving to Mayer Brown (7 October 2013), partner Lisa Marks, who joined Stephenson Harwood (9 July 2013) and partner Rob Salter, who left for DLA Piper. Late last year project finance head Philippa Chadwick was hired by Squire Sanders (19 December 2012). Acquisition finance partner Andrew Bamber has also quit BLP (22 July 2013).