Former SJ Berwin senior partner Blake exits KWM for O'Melveny

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O’Melveny & Myers has made a big-name addition to its London office, with the hire of former SJ Berwin senior partner Jonathan Blake from King & Wood Mallesons (KWM).

Blake, the head of KWM’s international funds group, was SJ Berwin senior partner from 2006 to 2012. He is joining O’Melveny’s global investment funds group as partners from the legacy SJ Berwin business continue to find new homes ahead of its imminent move into administration.

Blake, an SJ Berwin lifer, founded the firm’s private equity and private funds groups, and before taking the senior partner role was head of corporate.

In the late 1980s, he negotiated the guidelines for the use of limited partnerships as venture capital investment funds with the Inland Revenue and Department of Trade and Industry, paving the way for the use of limited partnerships in European fund structures.

O’Melveny investment funds head John Daghlian said: “Jonathan helped define the private equity industry and we’re thrilled a lawyer of his stature and experience is joining the O’Melveny team.”

Blake stood down as senior partner of SJ Berwin in 2012, prior to the ill-fated 2013 merger of King & Wood Mallesons and SJ Berwin. He was replaced by Stephen Kon, who held the role until late 2016.

Kon, who recently sealed a move to Macfarlanes alongside three other partners, was succeeded by Michael Cziesla last October. Cziesla, whose tenure as senior partner lasted little more than a month, is now set to join McDermott Will & Emery’s Frankfurt office.

The news comes after KWM Europe told staff yesterday (10 January) that they will not receive any salary payments ahead of the firm’s imminent administration, as the firm’s main lender Barclays will no longer authorise the payments.

Managing partner Tim Bednall sent an all-staff email confirming that Barclays is no longer willing to approve the weekly salary payments that staff had been expecting to receive in January.

The decision means staff have effectively worked for free so far this month and will now have to apply to the firm’s administrators to attempt to claim back their pay for this period.

It also emerged yesterday that restructuring company Quantuma has replaced AlixPartners as proposed administrators to the firm. Bednall’s email stated that this change occurred because AlixPartners was concerned about funding.