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Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Private equity
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

  1. 1
    • Neeraj Budhwani - Clifford Chance
    • Simon Cooke - Latham & Watkins LLP
    • Tim Gardner - Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
    • Scott Jalowayski - Gibson Dunn
    • Christopher Kelly - White & Case
    • Jack Lange - Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
    • Gary Li - Kirkland & Ellis
    • Brian Schwarzwalder - Gibson Dunn
    • Kathryn King Sudol - Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
    • Simon Weller - Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
    • Andrew Whan - Clifford Chance
    • Betty Yap - Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Next generation lawyers

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Who Represents Who

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Clifford Chance provides ‘pragmatic and commercial’ advice to an impressive roster of clients including global funds investing into Asia Pacific (such as CVC Capital Partners, Carlyle and Permira), pan-Asian funds (MBK) and sovereign wealth funds (CPPIB). Able to provide a holistic and rounded service by virtue of the team’s corporate and finance offering, as well as its ability to call upon the expertise of practitioners spread out across the firm’s vast network of offices, the practice is frequently involved in the most complex and high-profile matters in the market. The ‘technical and efficient’ Neeraj Budhwani has ‘strong connections in the region’ and, alongside Andrew Whan, recently advised CVC Capital Partners on the $1.1bn acquisition of Nirvana Asia, in what was the first sponsor-led privatisation of a Hong Kong-listed company in Hong Kong. Whan also recently advised MBK Partners and TPG Capital on the HK$9.5bn acquisition of Wharf T&T from Wharf Holdings. ‘Excellent’ consultant Bryan Koo is also recommended.

Leveraging its firm-wide global reputation as a leading private equity firm, Kirkland & Ellis’ Hong Kong office provides a full-service offering (including not only corporate expertise but also finance, restructuring and litigation) to major international sponsors including Bain Capital and Blackstone, as well as a growing roster of regional funds such as Advantage Partners and Ascendant Capital. Jesse Sheley has recently handled a significant amount of work for marquee client The Carlyle Group, including on its leveraged buyout of VXI Global Solutions, and as part of a consortium, alongside CITIC Limited and CITIC Capital, on the $2.08bn acquisition of the majority stake in a newly formed company that will act as the master franchisee for McDonald’s in China and Hong Kong. The team is also well placed to handle outbound work by dint of its international offices and recently advised Bain Capital on its $413m acquisition (alongside Chinese corporate Yonghui Superstores) of US-based retailer Daymon International. Nicholas Norris had a key role in the aforementioned matter and also recently acted for Ascendent Capital Partners on its HK$549m acquisition of shares and subsequent HK$790m conditional mandatory cash general offer by Araco Investment for China Automation Group. Gary Li and David Zhang have excellent credibility in the region and are key members of the team that was also recently bolstered by the arrival in June 2017 of Daniel Dusek from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison continues to flourish in the market both on behalf of international private equity sponsors, including KKR, The Carlyle Group and Apollo Global Management, as well as pan-Asian funds including Shaw Kwei & Partners and IDG Capital Partners. The ‘technically excellent’ Betty Yap is recognised as a ‘superstar’ for China-related transactions and has further enhanced the team’s credibility in the region since her arrival in May 2016 from Linklaters. Yap is representing GIC (as part of a consortium) on the proposed acquisition of a minority stake in HERE from German carmakers BMW, Daimler and AUDI. Alongside Jack Lange, Yap also acted for Hillhouse Capital on its $250m investment in Magento Commerce. Other highlights included Lange’s recent representation of CDH Investments on its $110m convertible bond investment in China-based Sunpower Group. Splitting her time between the firm’s Hong Kong and Beijing offices, Jeanette Chan is also recommended.

With a strong presence in Hong Kong and Beijing, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is well placed to act for global and Asian private equity sponsors in transactions in China and other jurisdictions in the region. The team regularly handles work for KKR on deals involving a nexus to the Asia Pacific region; newly elected partner Ian Ho advised the buyout firm on its pending $81.2m pending minority investment in Indonesian agri-food company PT Japfa. Ho is also acting for KKR on its pending investments in Vietnamese-based company Masan Group and its subsidiary Masan Nutri-Science. Anthony King has a strong reputation for real estate-related private equity transactions and recently acted for Blackstone on its acquisition of a retirement village portfolio in New Zealand from Lendlease. Kathryn King Sudol is also a pivotal member of the team and is head of M&A in Hong Kong. Other clients include Apax Partners, Blackstone, Fountainvest and Silver Lake Partners.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP’s Hong Kong office benefits from a full-service private equity offering (including dedicated fund formation, M&A and sponsor-side leveraged finance practitioners), and is therefore able to provide ‘an excellent and rounded service’ to a range of private equity entities, from multi-asset managers, buyout funds and pension funds to state-backed funds, across the spectrum of deals including auctions, exits, take-private transactions and distressed acquisitions. The team is particularly focused on complex, big-ticket matters; for example, Tim Gardner advised Oaktree Capital Management in connection with the merger of Fitness First Asia and Celebrity Fitness (a portfolio company of Navis Capital Partners), creating one of the largest fitness club networks in Asia under the new corporate name Evolution Wellness Holdings. Gardner also recently acted for TPG Capital in its co-led investment round in Uxin Group, a leading online and offline auction and trading platform for used cars in China. The ‘very hands on, commercial and responsive’ Akiko Mikumo has vast experience in the Asia Pacific market for both strategic buyers and private equity sponsors; he recently advised a consortium, including Baring Private Equity Asia and Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, on the $4.3bn take-private of Nord Anglia Education. Associates Kris Desrosiers and Tony Fan are also recommended.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Hong Kong office frequently acts as a bridgehead with which to resource pan-Asian private equity deals, where it also able to harness the expertise and support of well-respected colleagues in mainland China. Simon Weller has a ‘strong reputation in the market’ and regularly leads on the most significant mandates handled by the team. He recently acted for Trivium Investment (a company backed by Permira funds) on its $835m acquisition of leading Hong Kong-based corporate services provider Tricor Holdings. Although he is best-known for his public M&A practice, the ‘vastly experienced’ Robert Ashworth also picks up sponsor-side work and recently advised Hillhouse Capital on the sale of its equity interest in Qima Holdings to China Innovationpay Group. Edward Freeman and Philip Li also have a significant private equity focus as part of their broad corporate transactional practices. Counsel Richard Blair is also recommended.

Latham & Watkins LLP’s recent high-profile lateral hires, both on the corporate and leveraged finance front, appear to be paying dividends and the office is picking up a significant amount of high-profile work for an impressive roster of clients including Carlyle Asia Partners, MBK Partners, Warburg Pincus and Cathay Fortune Capital Investment. Team head Simon Cooke is well known in the region and is advising Partners Group on its $330m acquisition of SPi Global from CVC Capital Partners. In a deal that involves significant input from several of the firm’s US offices, Cooke is also acting for New York-listed company Nord Anglia Education in the $4.3bn take-private by a consortium led by the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and Baring Private Equity Asia. Amy Beckingham handles a significant amount of work for Warburg Pincus including advising it, as part of a consortium, on the leveraged acquisition of Singapore-listed real estate fund management company ARA Asset Management. As well as buy-side work, Beckingham also has securities expertise for private equity firms seeking an IPO exit. Native Mandarin speaker Frank Sun rounds the team out at a partner level and regularly handles China outbound work; he recently acted for CITIC Capital Partners on its $186.6m sale of a controlling stake in King Koil Shanghai Sleep System to Advent International. Associate Maurice Conway is also recommended.

In April 2017, Ropes & Gray LLP suffered the departure of several Hong Kong-based partners, including Scott Jalowayski and Brian Schwarzwalder to Gibson Dunn, and the effect of this will depend on the remaining partners’ ability to retain work from core firm-wide private equity clients including Bain Capital and TPG Capital. Notwithstanding the above moves, the team is still able to call upon the expertise of high-profile corporate/private equity partners including Daniel Yeh and Peng Yu, who benefit from strong relationships with many local private equity sponsors active in the Asia Pacific region. Working closely with the firm’s US offices, Yu recently advised Baring Private Equity Asia and Bright Food on the $1.8bn sale of Weetabix to US-based Post Holdings. Other highlights included Yeh’s work for NewQuest Capital Partners on its acquisition of Integreon.

Bolstered by several notable hires in recent years, White & Case’s Hong Kong office continues to gain market visibility and – allied to its strong offering in Beijing – is involved in a significant volume of regional Asia-based private equity transactions for local sponsors and global firms. Aided by practitioners with expertise across all relevant aspects of private equity matters, the office is able to resource matters across the lifecycle of a deal from fund formation, through to investments (where it is able to handle both the corporate and financing elements), ongoing portfolio company maintenance and exit. US and Hong Kong-qualified team head Peggy Wang has considerable Greater China transactional expertise and continues to pick up a significant flow of work for Baring Private Equity including advising on its $542m acquisition, alongside South Korea-based fund Glenwood Private Equity, of Lafarge Halla Cement. Wang is also advising the same client on its first divestment in Korea – the proposed $300m sale of Korea-based Logen Co via an auction process to CVC Capital Partners. Head of M&A in Asia, Christopher Kelly is ‘very well known in the market’ and is regularly involved in private equity transactions. Other clients include Carlyle Group, Affinity Equity Partners and Standard Chartered Private Equity.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (Hong Kong) is ‘performing well in the market’ on behalf of a loyal cadre of global private equity sponsors including TPG, as well as local private equity sponsors including CITIC Capital, Hony Capital and PAG Asia. Freeman Chan regularly handles transactions involving Hong Kong and PRC companies and is representing Hillhouse Capital and CDH Investments, as part of a consortium, on the $5.8bn take-private offer for Hong Kong-listed retail company Belle International Holdings. Gabriele Antonazzo is also a key member of the team and is leading a multi-office, multi-disciplinary team advising McDonald’s on the formation of a company with CITIC Limited, CITIC Capital Holdings and The Carlyle Group, which will act as the master franchisee responsible for McDonald’s businesses in mainland China and Hong Kong for a term of 20 years, valued at up to $2.08bn.

Morrison & Foerster’s team was recently strengthened by the arrival of US-qualified of counsel Jinghua Zou from Allen & Overy. It continues to build out its Hong Kong-based private equity practice and has consequently established some deep and strong relationships with many local Asian private equity and venture capital firms, particularly on deals that involve TMT and life sciences targets, two of the firm’s industry focuses. Thomas Chou has substantial expertise handling deals in the technology and life sciences sectors and continues to handle a raft of outbound work for Ally Bridge Group (both early and late stage) including advising it (as part of a consortium) on the $30m Series B funding into Delaware-based life sciences company Shockwave Medical. Marcia Ellis has been involved in numerous investments and exits for Ascendant Capital Partners, including advising on the $500m sale of its portfolio company Tong Dai Control (Hong Kong) to Guangdong Kaiping Chunhui Stock Limited Company. Other clients include Ark Pacific Capital, Carlyle Group and CCB International Management.

Although it lacks a significant number of personnel permanently based on the ground in Hong Kong – particularly since ‘star individualPaul Strecker now spends most of his time based in the firm’s London office – Shearman & Sterling receives a substantial amount of work from sponsors in the region, including China Investment Corporation, Yunfeng Capital, Ashmore and Bain Capital, which are appreciative of the team’s ‘very good knowledge of the industry’ and ‘commercially practical advice’. Stephanie Tang handles a number of the private equity transactional mandates generated out of the Hong Kong office including her work on behalf of the buyer consortium in China venture capital-backed Taomee Holdings’ $134m going private transaction. The team is also well placed to handle outbound work for Chinese investors by virtue of its vast international network including offices in the US and UK.

Although Gibson Dunn handled Greater China private equity work out of Hong Kong for a number of years, its visibility in the market has dramatically increased as a result of a number of notable hires in 2017 from Ropes & Gray LLP, including two leading private equity transactional partners Scott Jalowayski and Brian Schwarzwalder. Both have deeply established ties with numerous notable private equity sponsors on their transactional work throughout Asia Pacific, including Bain Capital, Baring Private Equity Asia and Goldman Sachs Private Equity; the latter has already instructed Schwarzwalder and Jalowayski on its A$1bn leveraged buyout of Icon Cancer Care.

Able to leverage the firm’s footprint in Asia Pacific as well as in Europe, Herbert Smith Freehills’ Hong Kong office is well positioned to act for local and international private equity houses investing into the region, as well as for Chinese entities that are increasingly targeting global assets as a means of diversifying their portfolios. Tommy Tong regularly handles work for Chinese investors as part of his broad corporate and M&A practice. In a deal that involved significant input from the firm’s London office, Tong advised Ping An Insurance Group on its acquisition of UK-based Mayborn Group from 3i via an auction process. While it is active across the spectrum of asset classes, the team adds particular value by virtue of the firm’s sector knowledge in the energy, renewables and infrastructure spaces. Tong also acted for SAIF partners on its $23.1m disposal of a minority shareholding interest in Hong Kong-listed technology company MOBI Development.

Although it is still somewhat in the process of rebuilding – particularly on the corporate side of private equity deals – following a number of high-profile departures over the last couple of years, Linklaters continues to handle a significant flow of work out of the Hong Kong office, either on its own or in collaboration with practitioners from the firm’s other international offices on deals involving multi-jurisdictional considerations. Alexandra Bidlake is the primary private equity practitioner in the office and recently advised the management and employees of Tricor Holdings on their investment in Trivium Europe via the management equity plan that Permira Funds (Permira) put in place. The experienced Matthew Middleditch has an excellent reputation for handling M&A work and this occasionally touches on transactional private equity matters, as recently demonstrated by his representation of Beijing Tongchuang Jiuding Investment Management Company on its $1.37bn acquisition of the Hong Kong life insurance business of Ageas. Head of Asia corporate Robert Cleaver also handles private equity matters as part of his broad M&A practice, and Nathalie Hobbs regularly handles the financing aspects of private equity matters.

As well as its traditional focus on private equity transactions in the real estate sector, Paul Hastings LLP is increasingly active on deals in the TMT space in particular. Steven Winegar recently advised CMC Capital Partners and FountainVest Partners on the sale of a minority stake in Hong Kong-listed IMAX China. Vivian Lam is also a key member of the team and recently advised real estate investment advisory firm Alpha Investment Partners on the $516.9m sale of its majority stake in Sparkle Bright Holdings to Star Champ Development. Victor Chen and Douglas Freeman left to join Goodwin Procter.

With local lawyers and US practitioners on the ground in Hong Kong and also able to call upon the expertise of private equity practitioners in Beijing and other key financial centres including New York, Sullivan & Cromwell handles inbound and outbound work, and is noted in particular for going-private transactions and minority investments involving private equity funds and institutional investors. Kay Ian Ng has significant take-private expertise as part of his broad corporate/M&A practice; he recently advised Hong Kong-listed Nirvana Asia on its $1.1bn privatisation by CVC Capital Partners. New York and Hong Kong-qualified partner Michael DeSombre has vast experience in handling public M&A and private equity matters in China, Korea and South-East Asia.

Led by Gloria Liu, DLA Piper’s Hong Kong private equity team is keyed into the firm’s broader Asian practice, which recently experienced growth in Shanghai following several partner hires. Active across the spectrum of mid-market private equity and growth capital transactions, the team has built up some robust relationships with funds in the region including Hillhouse Capital, China Everbright and Ping An Ventures. The team handles the full spectrum of work including secondary buyouts, take-private acquisitions and exits. Recent highlights include Liu’s work for EQT on its investment in Changshui Education Group and for Keywise Capital as lead investor on the Series D (pre IPO) financing in Meitu.

Although Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP lacks the strong institutional ties with regional and global private equity firms that are the hallmark of many of the firms occupying the upper echelons of the ranking, it does frequently handle work for local private equity funds and sovereign wealth funds. Miranda So and Paul Chow are the principal contacts.

Hogan Lovells continues to pick up a steady flow of private equity and growth capital work for a small but growing roster of regional and Chinese funds including Navis Capital Partners, CITIC Kazyna GP, China Media Capital and Lime Tree Capital Partners. In addition to the team’s broad-ranging expertise acting for private equity players active in the Greater China and broader Asia Pacific region, it is also able to provide ‘highly pertinent’ advice which is mindful of the commercial and regulatory considerations attached to industry sectors including healthcare, insurance, energy and TMT. Steven Tran is the main contact within the team and recently advised Catalyst CEL Management on its $15m investment in semiconductor company Satxify.

King & Wood Mallesons provides an ‘excellent service’ to a growing roster of regional private equity sponsors, and the team handles the full spectrum of work including fund formation, investments and regulatory advice. As head of both the private equity and restructuring teams, Helena Huang has ‘broad knowledge’ across the transactional landscape and is well placed to provide advice on new money mandates, distressed M&A matters, as well as advice on investee company restructurings. Wen Huang has extensive experience assisting domestic and foreign strategic and financial investors with onshore and offshore acquisitions and investments; he recently advised Yintech Investment Holdings on its $192m acquisition of an internet-trading platform.

Although it lacks the heritage in the private equity space (and thereby the ability to leverage work from institutional sponsor clients) that some of the higher ranked international firms have, Mayer Brown JSM has deep roots in the Hong Kong market and has successfully leveraged this to gain substantial traction, particularly among mid-market Asia-based funds. The team guides clients through the lifecycle of a deal from fund formation and subsequent investments through to exits, as well as its ability to add value by virtue of its full-service offering including expertise in tax and employment. David Ellis regularly handles real estate-related private equity transactions and recently advised US-based private equity firm AEW on its $145.2m acquisition of Continental Place, an office building in Hong Kong. With experience in the Hong Kong, UK and US markets, Mark Uhrynuk is able to provide significant flexibility on deals and is handling an increased amount of work for TPG Capital.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy is particularly active advising Hong Kong and Chinese clients including EXS Capital, Bank of China Investment Group and Huarong International Asset Management on their outbound activity, both into the US and the wider Asia Pacific region. David Kuo is the main contact.

The Hong Kong practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius (in association with Luk & Partners) was established in February 2017 following the arrival of a whole team of corporate practitioners from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, including private equity specialist Maurice Hoo. Hoo has considerable expertise handling private equity and venture capital deals in the technology space, and along with Connie Cheung, handles a significant amount of work for Warburg Pincus, including its Series C investment in NextEV, a global developer of high-performance smart electric vehicles, and Series E $120m investment in Yuanfudao, China’s leading online tutoring service provider. Other clients include Permira, Sequoia Capital and Banyan Capital.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP experienced the departure of private equity partners to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius (in association with Luk & Partners), including Maurice Hoo, but the firm has offset that to some extent by making several new hires, most notably those of Scott Peterman and Mark Lehmkuhler in mid-2017 from Jones Day and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, respectively. Both have particular expertise advising on China deals with Peterman particularly focused on fund formation matters and Lehmkuhler more focused on the transactional front. The team continues to excel at handling matters in the technology sector, where the firm benefits from vast sector knowledge.

Proskauer Rose LLP’s team head Jay Tai has expertise on the equity and financing side for a growing roster of Asian private equity sponsors (including RRJ Capital, Haitong International and Ares Management Asia), which he represents on transactions in the Asia Pacific region as well as increasingly on outbound investments, particularly into the UK and US (where the team also benefits from the ability to call upon practitioners in those jurisdictions). Alongside Jeremy Leifer, Tai has recently handled numerous mandates for CCB International Asset Management including on the acquisition of RMB400m senior secured notes issued by UCAR Technology.

At Reed Smith Richards Butler, Denise Jong recently advised Investec Bank in its role as lead investor in a $19.5m investment into Trax Image Recognition, and acted for CLSA Capital Partners on a $20m pre-IPO investment in Gaia Group Holdings. Other clients include RRJ Capital, CITIC Capital and HOPU Investment Management.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s Hong Kong office is ‘increasingly visible’ on the private equity front on behalf of bidders, sellers and target companies on cross-border private equity transactions in the Asia Pacific region. The arrival in January 2017 of leading fund formation practitioner Geoffrey Chan from Ropes & Gray LLP was a significant recruitment. Also noted is Julie Gao, who has solid ties with numerous local funds and is regularly involved in China-based acquisitions and exits; Gao recently acted for Hillhouse Capital Management on its $11m investment in China Jo-Jo Drugstores. The firm’s connections to numerous large Chinese corporate entities has also led to a significant amount of outbound work on deals where these entities have teamed up with private equity sponsors to form a consortium to acquire targets in the US and Europe. Jonathan Stone heads up the Hong Kong office and also regularly handles private equity matters as well as public M&A.

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