Cleary Gottlieb adds private equity lawyers from Kirkland, Travers Smith in London recruitment drive

Debt finance partner Alexander van der Gaag joins from Kirkland as counsel Joanna Roberts moves over from Travers Smith

Alexander van der Gaag Image courtesy of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has strengthened its private equity team in London with the hire of debt finance partner Alexander van der Gaag from Kirkland & Ellis alongside counsel Joanna Roberts from Travers Smith. 

Van der Gaag has been a partner at Kirkland for the past four years, having joined the firm as an associate in 2015 from Baker McKenzie, according to his LinkedIn profile. 

He advises private equity firms and corporates on leveraged finance acquisitions, private credit and syndicated lending, infrastructure and real estate finance. At Kirkland he worked with clients including Advent International, Sun Capital, Bain Capital Private Equity and Banijay Group.  

Meantime Roberts will join Cleary in June after nearly 12 years with Travers Smith, including a year on secondment as assistant general counsel for Bridgepoint. A private equity transactions lawyer, she brings experience across leveraged buyouts, consortium deals, bolt-on acquisitions, carve-outs and co-investments, as well as reorganisations.

Cleary London partner and executive committee member, Tihir Sarkar, said the duo represented continued investment in the firm’s London private equity platform “during a period of tremendous growth for us here”. 

The firm’s London office has increased headcount 21% over the past year according to data from Pirical and now has around 130 lawyers, including more than 30 partners. 

Roberts’ move will reunite her with Ian Shawyer, who joined Cleary in London last May having been head of private equity at Travers Smith. Also last May, Edward Aldred joined the office from Linklaters, where he was co-head of the financial sponsor leveraged finance practice, a few months after top-notch public M&A partner Nick Rumsby moved over to Cleary from the UK Magic Circle firm.  

Meantime van der Gaag’s move follows Kirkland’s 500-lawyer London office losing 11 partners to Paul Weiss since last summer, as part of an eye-catching recruitment drive by the latter intended to build a top-tier private equity practice in the City. Among the defectors were influential Kirkland figures Neel Sachdev and Roger Johnson, who joined Paul Weiss as co-heads of its London office last autumn and have overseen senior hires from rivals including Linklaters, Clifford Chance and Ropes & Gray as well as their former firm.

Kirkland has moved to restock its bench in the wake of Paul Weiss’s extended raid, adding private equity partners Ian Barratt and Sinead O’Shea from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in October. Earlier this year it also hired capital markets partner Marwa Elborai and debt finance partner Vanessa Xu from Allen & Overy. 

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