KWM names Sue Kench as Australia head as O’Malley stands down

Asia-Pacific firm King & Wood Malllesons (KMW) has named partner Sue Kench as successor to managing partner Tony O’Malley in Australia.

Sue Kench

O’Malley stood down earlier this week with immediate effect and plans to retire as a partner on 31 December this year. He took on the job just 16 months ago in January 2012.

The news comes as partners at SJ Berwin and KWM prepare to vote on a global merger with KWM that would see the UK outfit’s name disappear (20 May 2013).

The firms are planning to put the deal to partners for a poll in the coming months, roughly a year after talks over a combination kicked off in 2012.

Former real estate managing partner Kench has been at the firm for 20 years and sat on the board between 2010 and 2012. She will take up the post next week.

KMW global managing partner Stuart Fuller said: “Sue possesses the stewardship and energetic drive for excellence that is critical to executing the firm’s domestic strategy and broader integration into the region and internationally.”

Kench added: “My immediate priority will be to reach out to the firm’s major clients and to our people to listen to them and better understand how we can enrich the client experience moving forward.”

Kench will also play a central role in KWM’s negotiations with SJB. A union would result in SJ Berwin becoming one of four partnerships under KWM’s Swiss Verein, which already consists of financially distinct arms in China, Hong Kong and Australia. Each unit of the combined firm will vote separately on the tie-up, meaning any of the quartet can veto the deal.

While not integrating with KWM’s network financially, SJ Berwin would see its name consumed by the Asia-Pacific giant’s should the union go ahead, bringing to an end the branding used by the firm since its founding by Stanley J Berwin in 1982.

The deal is understood to have received broad acceptance among SJ Berwin partners, who are said to be more content with the tie-up than they were with the drawn-out discussions over a merger with New York’s Proskauer Rose in 2010, which failed (12 November 2010).