16 Jan 2023

Baker McKenzie bolsters South Africa transactional practice with three partner hires from local rivals

Senior practitioners from Webber Wentzel, ENSAfrica and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr join following Bakers' leadership revamp in Johannesburg

Johannesburg cityscape (west part) seen from the Carlton Center viewing deck

Johannesburg Shutterstock; WitR

Baker McKenzie has bolstered its transactional offering in Johannesburg with a trio of partner hires from local rivals. 

Angela Simpson, Lydia Shadrach-Razzino and Verushca Pillay are set to join the firm’s corporate practice in the coming weeks from local rivals Webber Wentzel, ENSAfrica and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr respectively. The trio are prominent M&A and private equity practitioners in South Africa and together bring decades of experience in the African market to their new firm. 

"We are delighted to welcome three highly respected transactional partners to our corporate/M&A team,” said Johannesburg managing partner Lerisha Naidu. “These appointments form part of our strategy to grow our African transactional capability in order to service our clients' increasing needs in key markets across the continent.”

Simpson has joined after almost 17 years at Webber Wentzel, where she was a partner. Ranked by Chambers for corporate/M&A: private equity, she advises on all aspects of acquisitions and disposals by public and private entities, including cross border transactions and related regulatory issues such as the Takeover Regulation Panel Code and Exchange Control. She is also regularly consulted for advice on empowerment-related transactions.

Shadrach-Razzino specialises in M&A, takeovers, the formation of new business entities, private equity transactions, equity capital markets and general corporate finance. She has moved over to Bakers after a decade at ENSAfrica, where she was an executive and worked with clients including RMB Ventures, Oppenheimer Partners and Vodacom. Prior to that she was a director at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyer. 

Meantime Pillay has been a director at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyer since 2007 and brings experience in black economic empowerment and general corporate and commercial matters alongside M&A. 

"Joining Baker McKenzie with Angela and Verushca presents an exciting opportunity to grow Baker McKenzie's African M&A and private equity practice and to showcase the firm's solid African capabilities,” Shadrach-Razzino said. “I am excited about working with the team and the possibilities that lie ahead."

The trio’s arrival in Johannesburg represents a major boost to the firm’s local corporate/M&A team, which currently houses five lawyers including practice lead Michael van Rensburg. 

Another of the practice’s partners – Marc Yudaken – became part of a new management team in Johannesburg that the firm unveiled last summer in response to management issues in the office. 

It also featured employment and compensation lead Johan Botes and saw Naidu, who heads the competition and antitrust team in South Africa, become office managing partner. 

A change in leadership was one of three pledges made by the firm following the management issues, the others being ‘listening to and reviewing people’s concerns’, and ‘a commitment to the future and commercial success’ of the office.

The office’s previous managing partner – corporate/M&A team lead Morné van der Merwe – left the firm at the end of 2021 to launch a boutique alongside veteran banking and finance partner Wildu du Plessis and director of Africa operations Bruce Shubach. 

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