KWM sends China partner to London as first post-collapse head of European business

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has appointed its first Europe and Middle East (EUME) managing partner since relaunching in the region after the collapse of the legacy SJ Berwin business earlier this year.

M&A partner Wang Rongkang, who has been at the firm since 1998, is moving to London to take up the new role. He is relocating from Shenzhen, the financial centre of southern China that borders Hong Kong.

At the same time, the firm has also made its first UK partner promotions since relaunching the business in January. Corporate counsel Barri Mendelsohn, who joined the firm as a trainee in 2004, has been made up alongside EUME general counsel David Wilman.

Wilman, an employment specialist, has been closely involved in the wind-down of the former EUME business, and has also played a key role in efforts to encourage partners to contribute money to a hardship fund set up to assist staff affected by the collapse.

Zhang Yi, the firm’s newly appointed China chair, said in a release that members of the China management committee and partners in Europe and the Middle East believed that Wang was the ideal choice for the EUME managing partner role.

“The appointment of this important position will not only strengthen the management coordination and connection with China, but also will further enhance China’s business support for the Europe and the Middle East region,” said Zhang.

Wang is also a member of KWM’s international management committee – which he was appointed to in 2013 following the SJ Berwin merger – and the firm’s China management committee.

This January, KWM relaunched a new EUME operation led by a group of partners who agreed to stay on with the firm in the wake of the administration of the legacy SJ Berwin business.

This May, Australian partner Sue Kench took over as global managing partner, after Stuart Fuller stepped down from the role at the end of last year.

Fuller, who became the firm’s first global managing partner after the historic tie-up of King & Wood and Mallesons Stephen Jaques in 2012, has since returned to full-time practice in Sydney, along with former Europe and Middle East managing partner Tim Bednall.

On her appointment, Kench told Legal Week that the firm had “recalibrated” its global plans in the wake of its troubles in Europe, and is instead now planning to focus on its strengths in Asia.

Last week, the firm announced its first lateral hires in Europe since the collapse, with two partners set to join in Frankfurt this October – corporate partner Hui Zhao and restructuring partner Daniel Ehret.