Latham & Watkins has hired Clifford Chance’s global head of private equity, Oliver Felsenstein, and its Munich private equity partner, Burc Hesse, amid a review of the magic circle firm's German practices.
Felsenstein, who also led the UK outfit's German corporate group from Frankfurt, was appointed head of private equity 17 months ago after his predecessor, David Walker, resigned from the firm’s City office, also to join Latham. Before moving to Clifford Chance, he led the German buyout practice at Hogan Lovells' legacy firm Lovells.
Felsenstein's position as global practice head was made into a joint role by Clifford Chance last July, with City partner Jonny Myers chosen to share the responsibility. Two months later, Felsenstein became head of the German corporate practice and a member of its then newly-established German leadership group.
Another Lovells alumni, Hesse made partner at the magic circle firm in 2007. He is known for his work for mittelstand clients, specialising in healthcare, life sciences and chemicals.
The two partner's departures coincides with a strategic review of the firm's German practices initiated by new country managing partner, Peter Dieners, in the second half of last year following his election to the role.
In December, German legal publication Juve reported Clifford Chance was considering reducing the number of partners based in the country by nine. Until now, Frankfurt banking and finance specialist, Kirti Vasu, is the only partner to have publicly exited the firm's German team after she relocated to its London office.
Felsenstein’s importance to Clifford Chance, particularly in Germany, extends beyond his management and technical capabilities. In his seven years as partner in Germany, he has fostered strong relationships with several important funds, with HgCapital and Permira among them.
Somewhat ironically, the firm may not be as at risk of damaging these relationships as it has been in the past because of a strategy Felsentsein and Myers had been encouraging. In an interview with The Lawyer last October, the two co-heads said Clifford Chance's private equity practice has been striving to move away from the traditional one-partner client relationships often seen in the industry, which potentially means losing access to lucrative business when a certain lawyer moves on.
For Clifford Chance, implementing such a strategy seemed wise given how many important partners left its private equity practice for Latham recently. In addition to Walker - certainly the biggest loss because of his experience and ties with Carlyle, younger specialists Tom Evans and Kem Ihenacho also made the switch to the US outfit’s London branch last year.
Felsenstein's departure has seen the firm revert to its previous management structure for private equity, with Myers now leading the global practice independently.
Clifford Chance is in the process of scrutinising its operations internationally, with a review of its partner remuneration scheme already underway.