Paul Weiss hires Kirkland heavyweight as poaching battle escalates

Former Kirkland & Ellis private equity heavyweight Roger Johnson has joined US law firm Paul Weiss in London alongside a Linklaters partner and further Kirkland lawyers, as the hiring battle between the pair escalates.

M&A star Johnson was asked to leave by Kirkland last month after the firm’s management discovered he was in talks to join Paul Weiss.

Kirkland’s management suspected he was trying to orchestrate a team move away from the firm.

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Kirkland debt finance specialist Neel Sachdev resigned from Kirkland on 13 August to join Paul Weiss alongside three partners in the UK and a team in the US, Private Equity News’s sister title Financial News first reported.

Johnson is now set to join his ex-Kirkland colleagues at Paul Weiss in London, Paul Weiss confirmed on 11 September.

Paul Weiss has also hired private equity M&A partner Will Aitken-Davies from Magic Circle law firm Linklaters, the firm said.

Paul Weiss is also hiring M&A partner Andreas Philipson and tax partners Timothy Lowe and Cian O’Connor from Kirkland.

Paul Weiss said Sachdev and Johnson will co-lead the firm’s London office, with Sachdev also co-chairing the firm’s global finance and capital markets practice and Johnson co-chairing the firm’s global M&A practice.

Aitken-Davies will head the firm’s London M&A group, Merkle will be head of European capital markets and Lowe will be global co-head of tax and head of European tax, the firm said.

Ex-Kirkland partner Eric Wedel will lead the firm’s new Los Angeles office and co-chair the firm’s global finance and capital markets practice, Paul Weiss’s statement said.

“These are the premier private equity teams in their respective markets, covering finance, M&A and tax, and we are thrilled that they have chosen Paul Weiss as their new professional home,” said Paul Weiss’s chair Brad Karp.

“We appreciate their contributions to the partnership and wish them the best at their new firm,” a spokesperson for Kirkland said.

Linklaters was contacted for comment.

Kirkland hired Paul Weiss’s London head Alvaro Membrillera last month, alongside lawyers Adam Wollstein, Anna Pollak and Pelin Demirdere Eski, who joined the firm as partners.

Johnson argued with Kirkland’s chair Jon Ballis about the decision to hire Membrillera without consulting the wider UK team, according to people familiar with the situation.

On 1 August, Ballis called Johnson to tell him that he had heard that he was in talks to join Paul Weiss and asked him to leave Kirkland with immediate effect.

READ Kirkland & Ellis M&A star asked to leave after exit plans leaked

“We do not comment on personnel matters. But we can confirm that Roger Johnson is no longer affiliated with the firm. We wish him well in his future endeavours,” a spokesperson for Kirkland said in August.

Johnson spoke to a string of top US law firms in recent weeks before deciding to join Paul Weiss, people familiar with the situation said.

Johnson’s recent deals include acting for private equity firm EQT on its £4.5bn takeover of veterinary pharmaceuticals company Dechra, which was announced in June.

The Financial Times first reported that Johnson and Aitken-Davies were joining Paul Weiss.

From Financial News

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