Kirkland’s former London chief Jim Learner returns to firm

Kirkland & Ellis’s City office had a bit of a hectic year in 2014, what with the trophy hire of Weil Gotshal & Manges banking chief Stephen Lucas as well as a series of high-profile departures.

Aside from the defection of London head Graham White, who quit to become Fried Frank’s first-ever London managing partner, the firm also lost private equity partners Claire McDaid and Matthew Dean to Willkie Farr, financial services partner Stephanie Biggs to Travers Smith and debt finance partner Stephen Gillespie to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

It’s no wonder that Kirkland has resorted to bringing out the big guns.

Exactly three years after he announced he was departing the firm for Palo Alto-based private equity house HGGC, White’s predecessor as City chief Jim Learner has been enticed back to London to again lead the office he helped grow.

Having previously been at Kirkland from 1987 to 2012, with 12 years in London, Learner oversaw a period of rapid growth that saw the firm establish itself as a dominant force on the UK private equity scene.

Learner, who resumes his role as de-facto office head on 1 February, says he’s “thrilled” to be returning to his old stomping ground in the City.

With internal politics ravaging the London office since his departure, though, the smart money says he’s not half as thrilled as the firm’s bosses will be to have him back.

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