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Kirkland Raids 3 Firms in Push for Asian Transactions

Kirkland & Ellis LLP has raided senior partners from three major law firms to launch a full-service transactional practice in Hong Kong as it pushes toward its goal of having nearly 50 lawyers in Asia, the firm said Tuesday.

The firm hired three partners from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, including two co-heads of Skadden's corporate practice in Asia, excluding Japan. It also lured three partners from Latham & Watkins LLP, including the global vice chairman of Latham's corporate department, and two from Allen & Overy LLP, including a leader of the firm's leveraged acquisition finance practice.

"The combination of their teams with our transactional teams in Hong Kong, mainland China, the [U.S.] and Europe will provide clients with significant resources linking private equity, [mergers and acquisitions], capital markets and debt finance on a global scale," said said Jeffrey C. Hammes, chairman of Kirkland's global management executive committee, in a statement.

The addition of the eight new attorneys brings Kirkland's total lawyer count in both its Shanghai and Hong Kong offices to 27, putting the firm more than halfway toward its goal of having 50 lawyers in Asia.

The team from Skadden is made up of Nicholas Norris and Dominic Tsun — both co-heads of Skadden's corporate practice in Asia — and Li-Chien Wong. The partners focus on Hong Kong capital markets and M&A, Kirkland said.

Norris, 47, who has been based in Hong Kong since 1992, has advised on more than 20 public takeover and take-private transactions in that city in the past five years, the firm said.

His clients include major corporations, private equity firms and investment banks, whom he represents in cross-border mergers and acquisitions, as well as a swath of other corporate matters like joint ventures and private investment in public equity financing.

"Leveraging Kirkland's preeminent private equity and expanding global M&A practices, we plan to build a leading Asian deal platform," Norris said in a statement.

Tsun, 49, represents issuers, underwriters and investors in Hong Kong initial public offerings and listings, as well as additional matters pertaining to companies listed in Hong Kong, where he's been based since 1994, the firm said.

He's also worked with Chinese companies in an array of sectors and has helped international issuers from around the world with plans to list in Hong Kong.

"Combining efforts with such an extraordinarily talented and focused group of deal lawyers is a unique opportunity in this market," Tsun said. "This will create a premier advisory platform that adds value for clients."

Wong, who has worked with all the major investment banks in Hong Kong, represents issuers and underwriters in Hong Kong IPOs and other securities listings, according to Kirkland.

Together, Tsun and Wong have completed more than 30 listings in the past nine years — including nine in 2011.

Coming to Kirkland from Latham are three attorneys who will handle U.S. markets and M&A for Kirkland, including David Zhang, who was both global vice chairman of Latham's corporate department and co-chairman of its greater China practice.

Zhang, 48, who has been in Hong Kong since 1993, counsels Chinese companies on transactions and governance, disclosure and reporting matters. His clients include Chinese issuers and investment banks in U.S. equity and debt capital market transactions, including U.S. IPOs and other securities offerings, the firm said.

Joining him are John Otoshi and Benjamin Su. Otoshi, 57, advises corporations and financial sponsors on transformative transactions, with a focus on high-yield debt and complex securities transactions.

Su's clients include Chinese issuers and international underwriters, who he counsels on capital market transactions. He focuses in particular on the financial services, renewable energy and technology sectors, according to Kirkland.

The trio has led more than 35 IPOs by Chinese companies — mostly as counsel to issuers — since 2003.

Finally, taking up Kirkland's efforts on Hong Kong debt financing are Ashley Young and his colleague Douglas Murning, both from Allen & Overy.

Young, 34, was previously a key member of Allen & Overy's leveraged acquisition finance practice in its London and Paris offices. He then led that practice for Allen & Overy in the Asia Pacific region from the firm's Tokyo and Hong Kong offices, according to Kirkland.

For more than a decade, he has been advising clients on international cross-border leveraged buyouts, as well as other complex debt finance transactions. He's worked closely on high-profile transactions with Murning, who counsels borrowers and financiers on debt financing matters.

The eight lateral hires follow news in July that Kirkland had relocated two partners to Asian offices, moving transactional tax lawyer Angela Russo to Hong Kong and white collar partner Sam Williamson to Shanghai.

"We intend to be the leading adviser to sponsors of complex deals in Asia," said Kirkland Hong Kong private equity partner David Patrick Eich.