QUITTING WHILE AHEAD(2)

Private equity lawyers need never stay in the same place for too long. As the ‘Legal Briefs’ section of sister magazine Private Equity Manager bears witness, each new month brings with it a raft of new appointments, promotions and departures in the world's leading dealdoing centres.

In January came proof that no firm is immune from this trend when three fund formation lawyers at London-based SJ Berwin quit the firm to join the London office of Chicago-headquartered rival Kirkland & Ellis. Headed by leading industry figure Jonathan Blake, SJ Berwin has long been renowned for its expertise in the funds domain. Used to collecting awards for its work, the franchise is not quite so accustomed to seeing team members fly the nest.

What is more, this was no junior level defection. Mark Mifsud, Richard Watkins and Justin Dolling were all partners at the firm. Mifsud was the most senior loss, having become a partner as far back as 1999, while Watkins was promoted to that level in 2004 and Dolling last year.

For Kirkland, the hires represent the latest stage in an aggressive private equity hiring spree. Last April the firm recruited transaction luminaries Graham White and Raymond McKeeve from Linklaters and then the following month lured leveraged finance specialist Stephen Gillespie from Allen & Overy.

Prior to its triple hire, Kirkland had no dedicated fund formation team in London. A rival at a London law firm said Mifsud and co would benefit from the strength of Kirkland's transaction practice. He said: “The relationships are important. In an ideal world a law firm will help form the fund and act on the buyout group's behalf and for its portfolio companies.”

SJ Berwin's Blake put a positive spin on events, saying: “The team remains a strong one at the forefront of the industry. We take nothing for granted and are always looking for ways to improve. That may or may not include hires.” If it does, the recruitment merry-go-round will whirl into action once more.

AIG LURES TWO TO LEVERAGE TEAM
AIG Global Investment Group, the asset management arm of the US insurer, has made two hires into its European leveraged loan group, as it continues to build its presence in private equity and leveraged finance. The group, which closed its first €383 million ($495 million) managed CLO fund in September last year, has hired Margarita Sabarny, formerly of Morgan Stanley, as a credit analyst, and Rebecca Reeve, who was previously with ABN AMRO, as a business analyst. The hires take the size of the European team to six.

PHOENIX LAYS ROOTS IN NORTHERN ENGLAND
Phoenix Equity Partners, a UK midmarket private equity firm, hopes to build its presence in the north of England after recruiting John Rastrick from 3i to launch a Leeds office. Rastrick has worked for 3i in Leeds and Manchester for the last four years. His deals included a £21 million (€31 million; $41 million) investment in Hull-based MKM Building Supplies and the £200 million merger of Coach Holiday Group and Shearings.

HUTCHINGS RESURFACES AT ALBOURNE
David Hutchings, a former managing director at AXA Private Equity, has joined Albourne Partners, a hedge fund advisory firm, with a view to developing a private equity business. A source close to the firm confirmed Hutchings is planning to launch the business later this year. His arrival at Albourne marks a return to the private equity advisory work with which Hutchings made his name after a five-year spell with Cambridge Associates, a US-based gatekeeper. Hutchings left AXA Private Equity in March last year after just 12 months with the French insurer, though he was retained as a consultant to the business (see p. 38).

NEW SALES HIRE FOR CITIGROUP
Mathias Giebken has left his managing director position at Auda Deutschland, a German alternative asset management firm, and joined US financial services company Citigroup to lead its alternative investment product sales in Germany. He will work out of the firm's Frankfurt and London offices and report to Philip Anker, head of institutional sales and marketing for Citigroup Alternative Investments in Europe, and Stefan Mühlheim, board member of Citigroup global markets in Germany.

MID-MARKET PUSH AT DRESDNER
Investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort has recruited Mark Barrow, former head of Close Brothers' private equity coverage team, as it looks to win more business in the lucrative mid-market space. Barrow will join Dresdner's financial buyers group as a managing director in May, where he will report to team head Tariq Hussein. He has been tasked with building up the firm's mid-market practice, his specialist area for several years. Barrow joined Close Brothers in 1996. Close has appointed Darren Redmayne to replace Barrow.

RANAUDO ACCEPTS BRIDGEPOINT'S ITALIAN JOB
Bridgepoint Capital, a pan- European private equity firm, has hired Lucio Ranaudo as a director in its Milan office. Ranaudo was previously the director responsible for Italian coverage at L Capital, a Paris-based private equity fund, since 2002. Although the fund has its headquarters in Paris, Ranaudo was based in Milan. Before that, he was a founding director of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson's Fund Italia, an Italian SME-focused fund managed by the bank's subsidiary in Milan.