Latham hires Kirkland & Ellis securities partner in Hong Kong

Hong Kong securities partner Benjamin Su has left Kirkland & Ellis to rejoin Latham & Watkins after leaving the firm in 2011.

Su, a US securities specialist, advises Chinese companies on listings in Hong Kong and the US. Last year, he acted for Singapore-based e-commerce company Sea on an $885m (£640m) initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. He also regularly advises on the US securities law aspects of debt and equity offerings on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

“Ben’s return to Latham…is an exciting development for the practice in Greater China and the wider region,” said Latham global corporate vice-chair Michael Sturrock. “His unique experience and track record representing issuers and investment banks on equity and debt deals is well aligned with our practice strengths.”

Su left Latham in 2011 as part of a high-profile eight-partner group hire made by Kirkland during the height of Chinese companies’ overseas listing activities. He joined Kirkland with former Latham partners David Zhang and John Otoshi, alongside former Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom partners Nicholas Norris, Dominic Tsun and Li-Chien Wong and former Allen & Overy partners Ashley Young and Douglas Murning.

Among the eight, Otoshi retired from Kirkland in 2016; Hong Kong law securities lawyer Tsun left the firm earlier in 2017, and finance specialist Murning moved to DLA Piper late last year. As Legal Week sister title The Asian Lawyer reported last year, many US firms are reassessing their China practices as the market grows increasingly competitive, especially in the corporate and capital markets space.

Latham’s US securities law practice in Asia lost senior “China Hands” when Zhang and Su left in 2011; before that, it also lost former partner Julie Gao to Skadden in 2009. Last year, former US securities partner Eugene Lee also left to join Herbert Smith Freehills Singapore associate firm Prolegis.

Meanwhile, Latham’s Beijing head Yilong Du has left the firm to become general counsel for international affairs of China’s ride-sharing app developer Didi Chuxing, the Chinese version of Uber.

In 2015, Latham hired capital markets partner Du from Goldman Sachs, where he was an executive director and senior in-house counsel. Du joined in Hong Kong and soon moved to head the firm’s Beijing office.

But Du has now left the firm to join ride-sharing app developer Didi Chuxing as general counsel for international affairs. In 2016, Didi Chuxing bought out Uber’s China business for $7bn (£5bn). The company has received investment from some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Apple, Tencent, and Alibaba, and it is planning to launch operations outside China this year.