Ashurst adds to non-exec trend as ex-UBS and CBA duo join boards

Ashurst has appointed external members to its UK and Australian management boards for the first time, in a move that demonstrates the slow but increasing trend for City law firms to bring in non-executive directors to provide outside experience.

Charlie Geffen
Charlie Geffen

Former Takeover Panel director general and ex-UBS banker Robert Gillespie joins the board of the firm’s UK-headquartered LLP with immediate effect.

Gillespie headed the Takeover Panel from 2010 until April this year, qualified at accountants Price Waterhouse and held senior positions at S G Warburg (now UBS), becoming Emea CEO of UBS Investment Bank in 2004 and its overall vice-chairman in 2010.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Bank of Australia chairman David Turner will take up a place on the board of the firm’s legacy Blake Dawson arm, Ashurst Australia, on 1 June.

Turner has held the position at the Australian Securities Exchange-listed group since 2010 after being appointed a member of its board in 2006. He was chairman of UK defence and aerospace group Cobham from 2008 to 2010.

The two appointments – which involve attendance of board meetings and roughly 30 days’ work a year – are for three-year terms initially. Both will join the board of the merged firm when the UK and Australian businesses integrate financially, a transition expected to take place later this year.

The pair have both worked closely with major law firms in their respective previous roles and were chosen following a search process carried out by headhunters on Ashurst’s behalf.

The recruits, referred to internally as ‘independent board members’, have been brought in shortly after the firm hired its first CFO in the shape of Allen & Overy’s Brian Dunlop earlier this month (29 April 2013). Dunlop also sits on the LLP’s board and will assume a slot on the global oversight body on integration with legacy Blakes.

Other firms to have added non-executive directors include SJ Berwin, which has utilised the services of figures such as former Linklaters managing partner Tony Angel, former Dechert London chief Steven Fogel and ex-UBS banker Lucinda Riches.

Speechly Bircham brought in former legacy Lovells managing partner Lesley MacDonagh as a non-executive director in 2010 (3 January 2011), while Weightmans is currently planning to add an external board member (29 April 2013).

Ashurst’s LLP board – last rejigged at partner level a year ago (9 May 2012) – includes senior partner Charlie Geffen, managing partner James Collis, Ashurst Australia chairman Mary Padbury, Dunlop, Asia head Matthew Bubb and partners Cristina Calvo, Anthony Clare, Reinhard Eyring, Logan Mair and Ben Tidswell.

Ashurst Australia’s board consists of Padbury, managing partner John Carrington, Geffen and partners Elspeth Arnold, Tony Denholder, Sarah Dulhunty, Paul Jenkins and Ian Williams.

Geffen said in a statement: “Both Robert and David are seasoned board directors and during their careers they have accumulated considerable experience both domestically and internationally. Ashurst will greatly benefit from having such experienced independent board members who can provide external advice and expertise.”