Trio of firms shrug off Covid-19 uncertainty to make London corporate partner hires

HSF, Simpson Thacher and Gibson Dunn press ahead with strategic appointments


The London lateral hiring market remains buoyant despite the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic as a trio of corporate partners switch to new firms.

Private equity partner David D’Souza has joined Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) from Kirkland & Ellis, while his former Kirkland colleague and finance partner Ben Myers has joined Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Gibson Dunn, however, has not had all its own way in the hiring market, losing a promising young partner in James Howe to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in a rare London hire for the US firm.

D’Souza, who leaves Kirkland after just over two years, is a 12-year veteran of the private equity world, having spent short secondments at Barclays and Deutsche Asset Management during nearly a decade at Clifford Chance, where he trained and qualified. He made the jump to Kirkland in 2018. 

D’Souza brings with him the usual range of experience working with private equity houses, pension funds, and sovereign wealth vehicles typical of a top-end practice. But experience alone is not why HSF hired him—his client list includes private equity sponsors such as BC Partners, Blackstone and Permira.

Stephen Wilkinson, who jointly manages HSF’s corporate practice, stressed the importance of private equity to the firm, saying that D’Souza’s appointment would bolster its offering in a sophisticated market. 

He added: “David has strong relationships with PE houses and financial sponsors. His experience and expertise will complement the excellent work our PE team has been doing, and further strengthen our capabilities in private equity across different sectors.”

Wilkinson stressed the strategic nature of the hire to the overall corporate practice, as he did for Michael Jacobs, who relocated from Allen & Overy in Hong Kong to join the firm in equity capital markets. Wilkinson added that D'Zousa's arrival also reflected “increasing client demand and opportunities in private equity.”

With the firm keen to improve on its 2019/20 financial results, stronger deal support will help. For D’Souza, the move gives him access to a client base that includes Cabot Square, Carlyle, GIC, Sherborne, Three Hills Capital Partners and Oaktree Capital Management, among others. 

Meantime, Gibson Dunn’s hiring of finance partner Ben Myers earlier this month follows moves by other US firms in London, such as Cahill Gordon, which last month ramped up its leveraged finance group

Myers brings his leveraged finance and restructuring experience to the firm, with Jeffrey Trinklein, co-chair of the London office, saying Myer’s “expertise will be highly relevant in the current economic environment.” 

Howe shifts to Simpson Thacher

Like D’Souza, James Howe has strong private equity experience. Simpson’s chairman Bill Dougherty noted that Howe’s “extensive experience advising private equity firms and financial institutions on complex deals” would boost both the London office and its wider European clients. 

Howe’s arrival adds leveraged buyout clout. Jason Glover, the firm’s London managing partner, said Howe’s mix of skills are attractive, given his “experience advising many of the most sophisticated private equity sponsors on a wide range of high-profile transactions.” 

Howe leaves Gibson Dunn after four years, having joined them in 2016 from Proskauer Rose, giving him advanced insight into the heavy demands of a US law firm practice. Glover praised Howe’s deal-making prowess, while his new immediate boss and London M&A head Ben Spiers praised Howe’s ”excellent reputation in the market for his commercial nature and ability to provide clients with well-rounded advice that is solutions-driven.”

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