Clifford Chance offloads Milan office space after turbulent year in Italy

According to Italy managing partner Charles Adams the firm has not been able to fill the six floors it rents in Milan and is looking to sublet as a means of economising.

“We can confirm that we have been for some time looking to sublet some space we’re sitting on in the office and that we’ve never filled,” said Adams. “We’ve always had around 15 or 20 empty rooms that we just used for meetings and storage . Right now everyone has to look at whether they’re making an efficient use of their space”

The fourth-floor of the building in the centre of Milan’s financial district has been empty for more than a month after Adams consolidated unused space in the office.

“Before engaging in discussions with potential parties we thought we’d reorganise space then decide what to do with it, as opposed to leaving everything as it was,” said Adams.

This is not the first time the magic circle firm has offloaded surplus office space. In 2007, having already rented out four floors at its Canary Wharf headquarters, it marketed additional floor space with the aim of generating an income of around £40m over 15 years (11 June 2007).

In February last year it sublet three and a half floors at Canary Wharf to accountancy firm KPMG, in a deal that was expected to boost its coffers by almost £4m in the current financial year (16 February 2009).

The following month it sublet space in its New York office to US firm Kilpatrick Stockton after significantly downsizing its US capabilities (2 March 2009).

News of the firm offloading space in Milan comes after a period of upheaval for its Italian practice that began when Milan capital markets partners Paolo Calderaro, Michele Crisostomo and Silvio Riolo left the firm along with a group of associates to start a boutique practice in April 2009.

One of the associates, Lucio Bonavitacola, later rejoined Clifford Chance as a partner (14 September 2009).

The firm also lost its former Italian co-head Luigi Chessa, who had had several stints at the magic circle firm earlier in his career (27 July 2009).

Among other departures corporate partners Ian Tully and Massimo La Torre left in July followed by project finance partner Massimo Novo in August. Decio Morgese and Elizabeth Knox also left the firm.

Clifford Chance has 116 fee-earners in Italy, down from 145 in January 2009.