Ropes & Gray has moved one of its global co-heads of M&A to Hong Kong, highlighting the region's growing importance to the US-based law firm.
Established in 1865, the firm opened its first Asia office in Tokyo in 2007 and has since added Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul to its roster.
But the decision to relocate Jim Lidbury, one of its most senior global executives, from the US is a clear sign of where the law firm thinks future growth is likely to come from, and how it can better serve private equity clients in the region.
“To participate properly in what is going on here, you have to be here. It is a different place and a different culture,” Lidbury told FinanceAsia. “It is not the same [as the US]. It has unique characteristics. To do business here you need to put time and effort in on the ground.”
Lidbury joined the firm as a partner in February 2008, launching its Chicago office. Prior to that he was a partner at Mayer Brown in Chicago and has worked in the M&A sphere throughout his career.
Ropes & Gray advises on the usual array of corporate transactions – including equity deals and M&A - but an increasingly large portion of its business involves Chinese companies looking to list in the US or take-private deals involving Chinese groups.
The firm advised the Blackstone-led consortium that bought Pactera for $600 million (led by Lidbury). It also advised China Everbright on its role as a member of the Carlyle-led consortium that took Focus Media private for $3.7 billion in 2012, in China’s largest leveraged buyout.
Ropes & Gray also represented Genzyme in its $20.1 billion sale to Sanofi-Aventis in 2011, and Bain Capital on its $3.2 billion leveraged buyout of Skylark, the Japanese restaurant chain, in 2011.
However, the firm said it expects deals involving Chinese groups to make up the bulk of its business for the foreseeable future.
“The extra flavour I bring to the stew is that I have worked in the US and worked on take-privates of listed Chinese groups,” Lidbury said.
Lidbury becomes the second senior executive to move to Asia from the US, following Kim Nemirow’s move from Washington to Hong Kong to head the group’s litigation and government enforcement practices.
He told FinanceAsia that Asian M&A markets had become increasingly sophisticated and complex in recent years and that it was crucial to build a deep bench of seasoned M&A specialists locally.
Brad Malt, the firm’s chairman, told FinanceAsia of the importance of having the right mix of local expertise and someone with a broad view.
“It is important to be bilingual but also bi-cultural and not just have someone fly over to work. You need someone on the ground with local knowledge but you also need people involved who have knowledge of international best practice.”
Lidbury’s co-head of global M&A is Jane Goldstein, who operates from Boston and New York.