Kirkland duo McDaid and Dean quit to kickstart Willkie Farr’s City PE practice

Willkie Farr has hired Kirkland & Ellis private equity partner duo Claire McDaid and Matthew Dean to launch its private equity offering in London.

New York qualified Dean has previously worked for clients including Bain Capital, Summit Partners, CapVest, MezzVest and HIG Capital. Meanwhile, McDaid has represented those including Sun Capital, Vista Equity Partners and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

McDaid is to join the firm’s City office imminently, and Dean within the next few weeks.

Willkie Farr’s London chief Peter Burrell said: “Our strategy is to grow our London practice areas around the strengths in our international network,” adding that private equity is the “next obvious move”.

He said that the pair would complement the office’s insurance and restructuring practices, as well as the firm’s private equity and hedge fund offerings in continental Europe and New York.

The hires will call into question Willkie’s relationship with formal alliance partner Dickson Minto – the firm it has turned to for English law advice on private equity deals since 2008.

However, the US firm’s co-chairman Thomas Cerabino insisted: “We value our relationship with Dickson Minto and expect to work closely with them in future”.

Willkie’s latest London additions will bring its tally of London partners up to seven. The office is currently home to two corporate partners, with the remaining trio specialising in corporate crime, tax and restructuring and insolvency.

The office also houses one senior associate and ten associates. It is not currently thought that McDaid and Dean will be joined by any other members of their former Kirkland & Ellis team.

Willkie is the latest US firm to bulk up its private equity practice through lateral hires. It follows in the footsteps of firms including Jones Day, which last year hired former Berwin Leighton Paisner duo Raymond McKeeve and Michael Weir to its private equity offering in the City.

Other notable moves include White & Case’s hire of Linklaters’ sponsor-side rainmakers Ian Bagshaw and Richard Youle (17 October 2013), and Latham & Watkins heist of three Clifford Chance private equity partners: David Walker, Tom Evans and Kem Ihenacho (18 February 2014).

In May, Kirkland & Ellis picked up Weil Gotshal & Manges banking chief Stephen Lucas, who is renowned for his work in the leveraged finance market. He has previously been involved in financing for sponsors including Advent International and the Carlyle Group (20 May 2014).