25 Jun 2021

Appointments: MinterEllison confirms CEO, Latham secures Magic Circle tax partner, Ashurst builds in Paris

Round-up also features Mayer Brown, Sidley, Hughes Hubbard, HFW, Rimon and Womble Bond Dickinson

New leadership at MinterEllison  

Virginia Briggs has stepped up as chief executive officer and managing partner at leading Australian firm MinterEllison, two months after former CEO Annette Kimmitt left following an internal disagreement.  

Briggs has been acting CEO since Kimmitt’s departure in March. She has been a partner at the firm in Sydney since 2007, most recently as leader of its infrastructure, construction and property practice. She has been on the firm’s executive leadership team since 2017, and was also part of the firm’s partnership board.  

According to the firm, Briggs received ‘far-reaching’ support from the partners as part of the formal voting process. She will assume the dual leadership roles on July 1.  

David O’Brien, chairman of MinterEllison, said: “[Briggs] is recognised within the firm as a leader of integrity grounded in a respect for the law, with commercial acumen, and possessing a strong sense of social responsibility. She has deep knowledge and understanding of MinterEllison, and legal and professional services, and has a successful track record in practice leadership, growing businesses and developing people." 

Kimmitt's departure came after the Financial Review revealed that she had sent an email to staff expressing disappointment about the firm accepting the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, as a client. Porter had previously held a media conference to deny raping a 16-year-old girl when he was a student in 1988 and has since mounted a defamation claim against the ABC and its journalist Louise Milligan. 

Latham nabs magic circle partner in London  

Latham & Watkins has lured a partner away from the Magic Circle, adding tax expert Helen Lethaby from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London.  

Lethaby has more than 25 years’ experience advising clients on a variety of complex corporate tax matters, including capital markets and private equity deals, public and private M&A, joint ventures, divisions and restructurings. Her expertise spans a number of high growth sectors, such as technology, telecoms, infrastructure, insurance and fintech.  

Jiyeon Lee Lim, global chair of Latham’s tax department, said: “We have made significant global investments in our corporate and finance capabilities in London in recent years, successfully establishing one of the top transactional practices in the City with a reputation for handling some of the most complex, high-profile mandates.  

“Helen is a seasoned practitioner and a distinguished leader, with phenomenal experience and technical knowledge honed over more than two decades advising clients on a variety of transactions. We see significant opportunities to further grow our practice and it will be great to have Helen on the team helping execute on our strategy.” 

Karl Mah, local department chair of the firm’s London tax department, said Lethaby will play a “major role” in the further development of Latham’s growing practice in the City. “She brings a track record of success and deep industry connections to the firm, and her substantial skillset, energy and drive are aligned with our practice and culture,” Mah added. 

Ashurst make 'significant and strategic' Paris private equity hire

Ashurst has hired private equity partner Francois Hellot to boost its corporate capabilities in Paris.  

Hellot joins from Dechert, where he was a partner for 12 years. He specialises in corporate M&A and private equity investment, as well as having experience in venture capital and growth transactions across France and internationally. His practice covers a range of sectors, including telecommunications, health and biotechnology.  

Prior to joining Dechert, Hellot spent four years as a partner in Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson’s office in Paris. 

Philippe None, managing partner of Ashurst’s Paris office, said Hellot’s appointment was a “significant and strategic” hire for its corporate practice in Paris resulting from its “industry-led” growth strategy.  

He added: “François has had significant experience in cross-border PE and M&A transactions, as well as acting as a trusted advisor more broadly to his clients for many years. He will play a key role in further building our integrated offering of globally minded corporate experts. Off the back of several years of consistent growth, and soon after the arrival of a leading compliance team led by Olivier Dorgans in April, this is the next critical step in our continuing growth in Paris.”

Hellot’s hire follows other recent additions to Ashurst’s global corporate team. In May, the firm nabbed Deutsche Bank general counsel Florian Drinhausen, who joined its corporate team in Frankfurt. The firm also made three internal promotions to its corporate team when it elevated 14 lawyers to its partnership in April.

Mayer Brown adds in Asia 

Mayer Brown has grown its oil and gas team in Asia with the addition of Joanne Du from Baker Botts. 

Du, who joins the firm as a partner, will split her time between the firm’s Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai offices. She specialises in advising Chinese and international oil and gas companies and other China-based corporations and state-owned institutions on domestic and cross-border energy transactions.  

"Joanne's impressive background in Asia will be a plus to our clients doing business in the region,” said Alexander Chequer, global head of Mayer Brown’s oil and gas group. “Her experience in cross-border deals around the world representing Chinese companies, strong relationships with major oil and gas companies, and language and cultural knowledge will broaden our scope and geographical reach in this sector." 

Du began her career with Mayer Brown in 2003 and joined Norton Rose Fulbright in 2007. She moved to Jones Day in 2008 and made partner in 2014, before moving to Baker Botts a year later along with fellow Jones Day partners Michael Arruda and Phillip Goergiou.

Sidley hires finance duo  

Sidley Austin has added partner duo Nicholas Schwartz and Kristen Smith from Kirkland Ellis to its global finance practice.  

Schwartz and Smith join the firm in New York and San Francisco respectively from Kirkland’s debt finance group. Schwartz covers a range of debt financing matters on behalf of private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies, as well as strategic borrowers in acquisition and non-acquisition matters. He brings a wealth of experience in handling financing and strategic elements of restructurings, including complex liability management and related capital structure transactions.  

He spent just over a decade at Kirkland, joining from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s banking and credit group in 2010.  

Smith, meanwhile, represents private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies, along with public and private companies in debt financing transactions as both borrowers and lenders. Smith began her career with Kirkland in 2011 and later joined Uber as an in-house lawyer in 2016, before returning to Kirkland in 2017 and making partner the same year.  

Hughes Hubbard adds corporate capability in New York 

Hughes Hubbard & Reed has hired M&A lawyer Constantine Petropoulos as a partner in its corporate practice in New York.  

He joins the firm after nearly seven years as senior vice president and general counsel of global advanced materials company Park Aerospace. During his career, he has held a number of in-house roles, including senior finance and strategic development counsel at Coca Cola and managing counsel at Scientific Games. Before that, he spent five years as an associate at Latham & Watkins. 

Petropoulos has experience representing private equity clients in investment matters, as well handling compliance matters related to defence-spending regulations and the committee on foreign investment in the US.  

Petropoulos’ appointment marks the third lateral hire for Hughes Hubbard this month, and the second addition to its corporate group in New York after partner Scott Naturman joined the firm at the beginning of June.  

HFW builds in Singapore 

HFW has bolstered its shipping practice in Singapore with the hire of master mariner Mark Myles from Reed Smith.  

Myles, who is also a qualified lawyer, handles collisions, groundings, salvage, total loss and cargo disputes. He focuses his practice on advising on international trade, cargo disputes, marine insurance, charterparty, admiralty and maritime matters.  

Before joining Reed Smith last year, Myles was a solicitor and master mariner at Mills & Co in the UK. The move is HFW’s third hire from Reed Smith this year, after senior commodities partner Peter Zaman and energy, resources and commodities partner Dan Perera joined in January and February respectively. 

Rimon PC expands in Paris  

Rimon PC has hired partner Stephanie De Giovanni from Simon Associés to strengthen its newly opened Paris office.

De Giovanni brings more than two decades of experience practising commercial law and complex commercial litigation with a focus on international litigation, arbitration and settlement negotiations in areas including distribution law, contracts and product liability.  

She has been a partner at regional firm Simon Associés since 2018, most recently as leader of its compliance group. She joined from CMS's Paris arm, CMS Bureau Francis Lefebrve, where she worked for almost 18 years.  

De Giovanni is dual-qualified in Paris and New York, and will become the firm’s second Paris partner after Olivia Le Horovitz, who joined the San Francisco-based firm as its Paris founding partner when it opened its doors in the French capital back in February. Moving across with her is associate Nolwenn Daïrien, who also specialises in international distribution law, contract law, product liability and compliance.  

Paris is Rimon’s fifth European location, with offices already in Berlin, Moscow, Warsaw and London.  

Womble Bond Dickinson names new London managing partner 

Womble Bond Dickinson has elected Newcastle commercial disputes and regulatory head Paul Stewart as its next London managing partner.

Stewart will succeed incumbent Jonathan Blair at the end of his current term in early 2022. Blair, who has held the role since 2008, chose not to stand for re-election and will be staying with the firm when he officially stands down next January.  

Commenting on Stewart’s election, Betty Temple, US chair and CEO, said: ““Paul is well-respected as a leader and a litigation partner in our firm, and I look forward to working with him to help our firm continue to thrive. I’m also pleased that Jonathan will remain with the firm. Jonathan was vital both in the initial combination between our US and UK firms as well as in making Womble Bond Dickinson a thriving transatlantic law firm.” 

Stewart has been with Womble Bond for 20 years, and has held the roles of training principal and graduate recruitment partner, as well as having a number of non-executive roles outside the firm.  

Blair, who led Bond Dickinson through its international alliance with US firm Womble Carlyle to create Womble Bond Dickinson in 2017, said: "I am enormously proud of my WBD colleagues and all that we have achieved together over the past 13 years, not least the incredible response of all our people to the challenges of the pandemic. Our business is in great shape and I am confident that we have the right platform to continue to build, grow and prosper.” 

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