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28 September 2020

Skadden celebrates hire of Freshfields London M&A heavyweight Bruce Embley

Arrival of global client group co-head comes three years after retirement of renowned City dealmaker Michael Hatchard

By Ben Rigby

Bruce Embley

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s global M&A client group co-head, Bruce Embley, in a major coup for the top New York firm.

A partner at Freshfields for more than fifteen years, Embley is regarded as one of London’s top dealmakers, having advised on the UK’s largest ever M&A deal, InBev’s $103bn merger with SABMiller, as well as other trophy deals across North America, the Middle East and Africa.

The loss of Embley, who is expected to join Skadden in November, once again highlights the vulnerability of top UK firms to raids from their more profitable US rivals.

It also promises to fully compensate for the retirement in 2017 of Michael Hatchard, who was regarded as being the most successful M&A lateral since US firms began to encroach on the UK magic circle’s turf in this key practice area.

Embley is making the move after a run of high-value deals for the magic circle UK firm’s corporate team, propelling it up the H1 M&A league tables for 2020, where it topped Mergermarket’s European M&A table by value and was second behind Latham & Watkins for global deals.

Scott Simpson, Skadden's London-based global co-head of transactions, said: "Bruce has led some of the largest and most complex private equity and M&A deals in the UK and internationally, and is an excellent fit for our practice."

Pranav Trivedi, head of Skadden’s London office, added: "We have made important strategic hires in London over the past year and, in particular, invested in our M&A and private equity bench. Bruce's experience is in the type of complex, high-stakes transactions for which we are known."

In September last year, Skadden hired Allen & Overy corporate partners George Knighton and Simon Toms while it secured co-head of private equity Richard Youle, who joined from White & Case in 2017, having made his name at Linklaters before moving to White & Case along with co-head of private equity Ian Bagshaw in 2013.

Meanwhile, Embley is the second London-based Freshfields corporate partner to be snapped up by a US firm; in March Sam Newhouse, who was regarded as a rising star, defected to Latham & Watkins as part of an international corporate hiring spree by the West Coast US giant.

Freshfields has also lost two New York M&A partners this year – US head of M&A Mitchell Presser and Omar Pringle – both to Morrison & Forster.

However, its launch of a Silicon Valley office in July with the hire of seven partners from across Davis Polk, Latham & Watkins, Sidley Austin and Wilson Sonsini was regarded as a major coup and evidence that its long-held plans to grow in the US were finally starting to come to fruition.

Last week, the firm announced the election of its first woman partner, Georgia Dawson, supported by three co-managing partners.

Elsewhere in the City, a five-partner team of private equity partners, led by Erik Dahl and Christian Iwasko, left Sidley Austin to join Goodwin Procter.

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