Simpson Thacher swoops on Travers Smith in London for two funds partners

Wall Street firm targets secondaries market in third partner raid by a US firm on London independent since start of 2023

Top New York law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has hired two funds partners from leading UK independent Travers Smith in London as it positions itself to exploit the increasingly lucrative secondaries deals market.

The arrival of Ed Ford and Sacha Gofton-Salmond, both recently made up to Travers Smith's partnership, will add secondary transactions expertise to a wider London investment funds team that is a dominant force in the big-ticket buyout space and boasts the largest US and European private equity firms as clients. 

Conversely, the loss of Ford and Gofton-Salmond is a blow to Travers Smith, coming hard on the heels of the departure of two practice heads for different US rivals last month: former private equity and financial sponsors group head Ian Shawyer joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and ex-head of M&A tax Jessica Kemp signed up with White & Case.

Ford and Gofton-Salmond specialise in advising clients on the structuring and negotiation of secondary market deals, ranging from GP- and LP-led secondary transactions to net asset value (NAV) financings, preferred equity financings and other structured secondary transactions. 

Both began their legal careers at Travers Smith more than a decade ago; Ford made partner in 2021 while Gofton-Salmond joined the partnership last summer in an 11-strong promotions round that is the firm’s largest to date. 

The pair's arrival at Simpson Thacher follows its hire in August 2021 of ‘rising star’ secondary market specialists Lauren King from Goodwin Procter in New York.

Secondary transactions totalled a record $57bn in the first half of 2022 and are predicted to rebound in 2023 after a quiet second half as investors seek alternative sources of liquidity in challenging financial markets.

Alden Millard, chair of Simpson Thacher’s executive committee, said Ford and Gofton-Salmond would "add depth to our private funds and fund transactions practices, bolstering our ability to advise sponsors and investors on liquidity solutions that provide additional flexibility to address an ever-changing market”. 

Michael Wolitzer, head of Simpson Thacher’s investment funds practice, added: “Simpson Thacher has developed a robust presence in the fund transactional space, which was strengthened by the addition of Lauren King in New York in 2021. With the addition of Ed and Sacha, the firm is augmenting its capabilities to provide sponsor clients and other industry participants with multidisciplinary secondaries solutions around the globe.”

Travers’ funds team, meanwhile, houses 11 partners following the departure of Ford and Gofton-Salmond, including practice head Aaron Stocks. The team is noted by The Legal 500 for its technical capability and commercial knowledge and has worked with clients including Bain Capital Credit, Hermes GPE and Investec Bank. 

A spokesperson for Travers Smith said: "Travers Smith is a successful, market-leading firm, with a clearly defined strategic focus. The recent appointment of Emily Clark to the role of head of asset management, and the subsequent reshaping of our approach, were as a result of the high demand being placed on us from our valued client base comprising of some of the world's largest asset managers. We continue to advise on global, European and UK work and wish Ed and Sacha well."

Travers' revenue increased 5% during the 2021 financial year to £195m, though unlike many of its London-based rivals the firm saw profit per equity partner drop slightly to £1.1m from £1.22m a year earlier. 

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