Despite Lateral Loss, Simpson Snags Another Deal for KKR

, The Am Law Daily

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Sean Rodgers
Sean Rodgers

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has lost corporate partner Sean Rodgers in New York to Kirkland & Ellis, the latter of which announced his hire Monday amid its ongoing efforts to expand its roster of M&A lawyers.

Rodgers, 43, is the latest high-profile lateral hire by Kirkland, which this summer recruited former SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami only a few months after it brought on former Cravath, Swaine & Moore corporate partner Sarkis Jebejian.

The American Lawyer reported in April on Kirkland’s effort to build a top-flight transactional practice through corporate partner-turned-chairman Jeffrey Hammes, who took the helm in late 2009 and was reelected to another three-year term as firm leader this past February.

“Sean Rodgers has informed us that he has joined Kirkland & Ellis,” Simpson said in a statement provided to The Am Law Daily. “We are sorry to have Sean leave us, and we wish him well.”

Rodgers says that his move to Kirkland has been in the works for several months, noting that Hammes had reached out him about joining the firm. Having joined Simpson in 1995 after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law—Rodgers made partner at the firm on January 1, 2004—he wasn’t actively looking to leave a firm where he had spent most of the past two decades. But Kirkland’s pitch prevailed.

“I was impressed by their energy level and depth of talent,” Rodgers says, “as well as their trajectory for the future. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”

Kirkland corporate partner David Fox, a member of the firm’s global executive management committee who joined Kirkland in his own high-profile lateral move from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in May 2009, declined to comment on whether a legal recruiter played a role in brokering Rodgers’ hire. Fox and Rodgers also declined to comment on whether Rodgers received any financial guarantees to entice him to leave Simpson. (Kirkland has reportedly agreed to pay $5 million a year to Khuzami over the next two years.)

According to the most recent Am Law 100 financial data, 837-lawyer Simpson saw gross revenue rise 2 percent last year to $982.5 million, while profits per partner were mostly flat at nearly $2.7 million. Kirkland's profits per partner rose 6.6 percent last year to $3.3 million, while gross revenue at the 1,517-lawyer firm jumped nearly 11 percent, to $1.9 billion.

Fox did say that Kirkland has been “extraordinarily busy” over the past few months handling transactional matters for private equity and strategic clients.

In recent weeks, Kirkland has had a hand in dozens of deals, advising Ohio’s Murray Energy on its $3.5 billion sale of five West Virginia coal mines to CONSOL, Edison International’s bankrupt Edison Mission Energy unit on its $2.64 billion sale to NRG Energy, and Advance Auto Parts on its $2 billion buy of General Parts International.

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