Clifford Chance global private equity head David Walker is set to join Latham & Watkins in a major hire for the US firm’s London office.
Walker, a corporate partner at the magic circle firm since 2000, is one of the City’s leading private equity deal lawyers and manages key clients relationships such as Carlyle Group.
The timescale for his departure is unclear, but his resignation is expected to lead to similar negotiations over exit terms to those held when Clifford Chance lost a four-partner private equity funds team to Weil Gotshal & Manges in 2011 (20 June 2011). Fund formation trio Ed Gander, Nigel Clark and Nick Benson and tax specialist Jonathan Kandel all resigned in June but did not join Weil until December later that year.
Walker’s exit also echoes that of corporate and private equity partner Adam Signy, whose decision to quit for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 2009 (5 May 2009) was mimicked a year later by funds chief Jason Glover (20 July 2010).
Like Signy’s move, which enabled Simpson Thacher to add the UK to the list of countries in which it acted for longstanding private equity client Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the Walker move will potentially confirm Latham as Carlyle’s dominant global adviser.
Despite being Carlyle’s main law firm on deals in the US, Latham has largely been overshadowed in the UK by Clifford Chance, where Walker has led on the American buyout giant’s acquisitions of a stake in QinetiQ in 2003 and RAC from Aviva in 2011. He also advised it on the purchase of cash management business Talaris from De La Rue in 2008 and the subsequent sale to Japan’s Glory last year.
Other clients he has led deals for include Barclays Private Equity (now Equistone Partners Europe), which he advised on its spin-out from the bank in 2011 (15 November 2011).
It is understood Clifford Chance is not intending to appoint a new global private equity head fast as it is not a formal role voted for by partners. However, the firm does plan to select a successor to Walker in due course.
The news also represents US firms’ continued attempts to bulk up in private equity through high-levels hires, with Simpson Thacher last year signing up Allen & Overy global private equity co-head Derek Baird (8 November 2012).
Latham has long being eyeing an increase in its corporate strength in London, with senior office management telling The Lawyer in 2010 it was increasing its focus on M&A in the City outpost (8 November 2010). Last year it hired Hogan Lovells equity capital markets head Richard Brown (1 February 2012).
Latham London managing partner Nick Cline said in a statement: “[Walker’s] arrival marks another milestone in the expansion of our vibrant and growing London office, which is approaching 250 lawyers.”
Clifford Chance London corporate head Simon Tinkler said in a statement: “We thank David for his contribution to Clifford Chance and wish him the best for the future.”
For more on Carlyle’s relationships with Clifford Chance, Latham and other firms, see City analysis