Cadwalader trades on Microsoft connections to scoop Linklaters competition star

Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft is launching a competition law outpost in Brussels with a prominent hire from Linklaters.

Alec Burnside
Alec Burnside

Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft is launching a competition law outpost in Brussels with a prominent hire from Linklaters.

The US firm has capitalised on its longstanding relationship with Microsoft, a link primarily led by stateside antitrust partner Rick Rule, to snare Linklaters EU and competition law specialist Alec Burnside.

Burnside, the former managing partner of Linklaters’ Brussels office and until 2007 the co-joint head of the firm’s global antitrust practice, will open and manage Cadwalader’s new office in Brussels.

Major matters on which Burnside, a partner at Linklaters since 1993, has worked while at the magic circle firm include advising Microsoft on its acquisition of Yahoo!’s search function, Deutsche Börse on its pending merger with NYSE  Euronext and SmithKline Beecham on its merger with Glaxo.

“Cadwalader is a great firm and I’ve worked opposite them for years,” said Burnside. “Microsoft is one client we have in common and which brought us together.”

Burnside admitted that Cadwalader had been looking to open in Brussels for several years. He added: “At the risk of sounding immodest, they were waiting for the right person”.

There is currently a growing demand for antitrust expertise with signs of M&A activity coming back to pre-recession levels.

“We believe this launch is well timed in terms of the economic cycle,” said Burnside. “Antitrust is a global discipline now and Europe and the US are its twin motors. Any self-respecting firm in this area needs to be practising on both sides of the pond – clients expect it.”

One Linklaters associate will be joining Cadwalader with Burnside while the US firm will also be bringing in two secondees.

“That means the office will be immediately launched with a  sensible gearing,” Burnside added.

Chris White, Cadwalader chairman, said in a statement: “[Burnside’s] attraction to Cadwalader and our investment in him and the opening of an office in Brussels reflect a mutual commitment to fielding the finest global antitrust team practising today”.

Gerwin van Gerven, Linklaters’ global head of competition said: “Alec played a leading role in developing the practice in the 1990s. He has been a great colleague and friend to many of us, and we wish him all the best in his new role. We are confident in the strength of our Brussels competition team, and have no immediate plans to replace Alec.”