Kirkland raids Allen & Overy for second London debt finance partner in past month

Vanessa Xu’s exit follows the departure of Marwa Elborai, who left for Kirkland in March

Kirkland continues to build out its London debt finance team Shutterstock

Kirkland & Ellis has hired debt finance lawyer Vanessa Xu from Allen & Overy in London, the second partner to make the switch in the past few weeks.

Xu’s practice focuses on advising financial sponsors on cross-border leveraged finance deals and other structured finance transactions. Her expertise spans a range of debt finance instruments such as traditional bond issuance, ‘cov-lite’ and ‘cov-loose’ loans, second lien loans, unitranche loans and pay-in-kind (PIK) deals. 

She has advised private equity firms such as Cinven, OMERS Private Equity and Providence Equity Partners. Xu is qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales and an attorney and counsellor-at-law in New York.

Stephen Lucas, a finance partner and member of the firm’s executive committee, said: “Vanessa is one of the leading debt finance partners in the market. Vanessa’s experience further strengthens our preeminent debt finance practice, and we are thrilled to welcome her to the team.”

Xu spent more than 17 years at A&O, becoming a partner in 2017. Her exit from A&O comes just a few weeks before it completes its merger with US firm Shearman & Sterling and follows the departure of leveraged finance partner Marwa Elborai to Kirkland in March, just over a year after she joined the UK Magic Circle firm from Shearman.

Kirkland’s European debt finance practice is home to more than 100 lawyers, including recent London recruits Ian Barratt and Sinead O’Shea who joined in October from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Other US firms have been bolstering their broader European finance and private equity offerings in recent months. Earlier in April, McDermott Will & Emery hired private equity partner Fatema Orjela from Sidley Austin in London.

In March, Simpson Thacher hired a pair of finance and credit partners – Paul Hibbert and Emma Serginson – from Weil Gotshal & Manges.

In late December, Simpson Thacher also hired fund finance partner and private credit specialist Katie McMenamin from Travers Smith in London, while earlier in the month Paul Weiss hired a private equity and leveraged finance partner duo – Christopher Sullivan and Taner Hassan – from Clifford Chance in London. 

And also in December, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom hired London leveraged finance specialist Sebastian FitzGerald from Willkie Farr & Gallagher. 

Yesterday (8 April), A&O Shearman announced its first round of partner promotions ahead of its official merger date at the start of next month, with 40 lawyers making the cut – 32 from Allen & Overy and eight from Shearman & Sterling.

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