US firm Katten Muchin swipes Hogan Lovells PE team in London

Chicago-based law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman has poached a private equity team from Hogan Lovells’ London office, The Lawyer can reveal.

London private equity partner Philip Watkins is understood to have already joined the US firm’s London base, while two of his associates are joining next month. The move has been confirmed by both firms.  

The departure of Watkins, who joined legacy Hogan & Hartson from Latham & Watkins in 2008, comes at a time of rapid expansion for Hogan Lovells’ London PE department.

The firm picked up King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin (KWMSJB)’s private equity partner Ed Harris in October (22 October 2013), triggering speculation that Harris will take a team from KWMSJB when he begins his new job at Hogan Lovells.

The Lawyer already understands that one of KWMSJB’s star PE associates, Leanne Moezi, is to follow in Harris’ footsteps. She is set to join Hogan Lovells after serving a three-month notice period at KWMSJB. 

Separately, on speculation that a number of associates had left the practice in recent months, KWMSJB’s managing partner Rob Day commented: “Our corporate practice is the engine room of our firm and as with all businesses people come and go. However, with the recent appointment of Michael Goldberg and Richard Lever as co-heads of our London corporate practice they, together with all of our corporate partners, are focused on building and developing our corporate practice in line with our clients’ needs, undertaking some of the most interesting deals in the market.”

Day did not comment specifically on the departure of Moezi.

Meanwhile Katten Muchin’s triple hire also follows a period of growth. Sidley Austin funds partner Barry Breen joined the firm’s London base a number of weeks ago, after the firm hired Mayer Brown’s head of real estate Peter Sugden the year before (8 February 2012).

Sugden, who is the firm’s London managing partner, told The Lawyer that the office had been looking for a “proper corporate capability” for a while and that he had taken the time to find the right person. “The American approach is finding broad skilled lawyers, you want people with broad capabilities,” he added. 

The hire of Sugden was part of Katten’s efforts to build its core practices in London – real estate and financial services – and followed the February 2011 departure of previous managing partner Martin Cornish to K&L Gates (7 February 2011). 

The US firm has also taken on Sidley’s former head of hospitality Robert Asher, who advises on issues related to hospitality in the EMEA region, as a consultant. Together, the hires will bring Katten’s staff headcount in London to 19, including 10 partners. 

Hogan Lovells is not looking to immediately replace Watkins’ team.