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22 March 2021

WFW hires Withers' Asia Pacific hotels and hospitality head to launch Sydney office

Robert Williams part of four-lawyer team that includes Singapore partner Lada Shelkovnikova

By Ben Rigby

Partner Robert Williams will front WFW's new Sydney office

Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has hired a team of four hospitality lawyers from Withers in Asia as it launches in Sydney and expands its Singapore office.

The Sydney launch is being led by partner Robert Williams, who joins as head of hotels and hospitality for Asia Pacific – a role he also held at Withers. Williams is joined by consultant Chris Greiner and special counsel Kate Switajewski in Sydney, while hotels and hospitality partner Lada Shelkovnikova joins in Singapore.

WFW’s managing partner Chris Lowe said: “Our new team gives our practice a greatly expanded presence on the ground in the Asia-Pacific region,” which complements its capabilities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, he added.

Williams leaves Withers after more than five years, having left specialist boutique firm Ryan Lawyers in 2016 after almost four years. Dual-qualified in both the UK and Australia, Williams was previously a partner for nine years at Baker McKenzie in Sydney, having also worked at both Taylor Wessing and Andersen Legal in London. 

Williams brings with him strong experience in hotel, resort and leisure centre deals, particularly investment and restructuring mandates, which are both in demand given current industry conditions. His advisory practice covers management and co-ownership contracts, including operating leases.  

His franchise, joint venture and operational expertise will benefit WFW’s work in the industry, which has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, particularly in Asia-Pacific, where hotels have seen significant falls in tourist occupancy. 

Williams cited WFW’s commitment to the sector as a reason for moving: “Joining WFW enhances our team’s regional coverage, with the ability to better service the Thailand, Vietnam and Middle East markets through offices in Bangkok, Hanoi and Dubai.”

He added that WFW will further expand its hospitality teams in Sydney and Singapore.

Greiner leaves Withers after five years, having also been a consultant alongside Williams at Ryan Lawyers, where he spent the best part of a decade. He joined Ryan Lawyers from legacy firm Blake Dawson (now Ashurst) in 2006 after 23 years. Switajewski leaves Withers after four years, bringing with her in-house experience spent at commercial property giant CBRE and International Hotels Group. 

Shelkovnikova, meanwhile, joins WFW after just over four years at Withers. The Ukrainian-qualified lawyer previously worked in Dubai at Al Tamimi & Company for almost three years before joining Withers. She also had stints at Arzinger and DLA Piper. 

Shelkovnikova specialises in all aspects of hotel M&A and operator appointments, branded residences arrangements and serviced apartments in the region.

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