Former Clifford Chance private equity chief set for Linklaters move

Former Clifford Chance (CC) German private equity head Christopher Kellett is set to join magic circle rival Linklaters.

Kellett, who is based in Frankfurt, spent more than 20 years at CC after joining in 1996, before retiring from the firm in April this year.

He has worked with a big-name roster of clients including CVC, KKR and Cinven, and in 2015 was appointed to lead CC’s German private equity practice.

After his retirement, Duesseldorf partner Anselm Raddatz – who joined CC from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in 2015 – succeeded him as Germany private equity head.

Major deals Kellett has taken roles on in recent years have included Liberty Global’s $4.5bn acquisition of Germany’s Kabel Baden-Wuerttemberg in 2011, and Swedish private equity group EQT’s €1.8bn purchase of Germany’s BSN medical in 2012.

Magic circle partners are facing increasing pressure in Germany, with a number of firms re-jigging their lockstep arrangements to reflect contributions made by offices in the country.

Freshfields has cut back its German partnership aggressively in recent years, closing its Cologne office last year, reducing partner numbers by 20% since late 2015, and moving partners to a lower lockstep ladder. It is currently scaling back partner count by a further 20%.

Meanwhile, Allen & Overy (A&O) moved down or froze about 50% of its German partners earlier this year in a bid to improve profitability. It has also made it more difficult for those in the country to move beyond 40 points on its 50-point ladder.

However, a number of US law firms have ramped up their recruitment in the country in recent months.

Earlier this week, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher recruited Ashurst Munich finance partner Sebastian Schoon, while Latham & Watkins brought in three magic circle partners in 2016 – A&O Germany capital markets head Oliver Seiler in Frankfurt, Linklaters German head of private equity Rainer Traugott in Munich and Freshfields competition partner Michael Esserin Duesseldorf.

Latham’s Germany chief head Oliver Felsenstein – who joined from CC along with fellow private equity partner Burc Hesse in 2015 – recently told Legal Week about his firm’s plans to expand in the country, including targeting premium M&A work.