Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP (Europe)

The Scoop

With offices in 11 countries and a website in 11 languages, one cannot deny Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton's international scope. But don't call it a US firm with overseas offices-this is an "integrated global partnership". The firm opened its first international office more than 60 years ago and has awarded partnerships to lawyers in foreign offices from the very beginning.

Global from the start

Founded in 1946 by four former partners in Wall Street firm Root Clark Buckner and Ballantine, Cleary Gottlieb is remarkable for its prescient, early foray into Europe. Supplementing its New York and Washington DC offices, in 1949 the firm set up shop in Paris, making the strategic choice to hire local lawyers who were partially trained in the United States. The decision to award these foreign lawyers equal partnership gave Cleary Gottlieb a unique advantage in terms of international presence. With the formation of the European Community in 1967, the firm was well situated; having anticipated the eventual economic alignment, it opened a Brussels office in 1960. The firm would then play a leading role in the burgeoning Eurodollar markets. The London office followed in 1971, and the firm added English law capabilities in 1997. Offices in Frankfurt, Moscow, Rome, Milan and Cologne were established between 1991 and 2004. In Asia, the firm has had an office in Hong Kong since 1980 and, in 2006, opened an office in Beijing. In the summer of 2011, after approval from the Brazilian government, the firm opened an office in São Paulo.

Financial powerhouse

Lawyers in Cleary's London office, which is located in the heart of the City's financial district, focus primarily on international finance and corporate work. The office also has developing dispute resolution and competition practices, as well as specialisations in financial regulation, intellectual property and tax. A significant proportion of the firm's international finance practice is focused on structuring complex global offerings and developing new products such as bank capital instruments. In 2008, for example, Cleary lawyers represented underwriters led by Kotak Mahindra Capital Company and UBS Securities India in the $2.93 billion IPO of Reliance Power Limited, the largest IPO in Indian history. The practice also has extensive experience in high-yield debt, acquisition finance and financings by Russian companies.

Cleary played a major role in advising clients involved in the global financial crisis of 2008-09. The firm's corporate lawyers advised on the $20 billion bailout of Citigroup, the $50 billion takeover of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America and the subsequent $4 billion rescue deal for BofA. Cleary lawyers in London represented Barclays in its £1 billion acquisition of Lehman Brothers' North American investment banking and capital markets businesses. The firm was also called on by the government of Iceland to advise on negotiations to repay the British and Dutch governments for losses suffered when the country's banking industry collapsed.

Wide-ranging practice

The corporate practice includes public and private M&A, private equity transactions, joint venture and outsourcing work, and corporate reorganisations and restructurings. Cleary lawyers work on both US and English law transactions and frequently team with colleagues in their US and European offices on large cross-border deals. The London office also specialises in both UK and US tax law.

The office includes self-standing practices in antitrust/competition, international litigation and arbitration, financial regulation, intellectual property and information technology. The London competition practice also works closely with the firm's preeminent antitrust practice in Brussels. Cleary continues to build its international litigation and arbitration practice, in 2010 bringing in its first UK-qualified litigator, Jonathan Kelly, from Simmons & Simmons where he led the finance litigation group.

Recent News

Record-setting deals

Recent deals out of London include helping global private investment firm TPG Capital acquire PRIMEDIA Inc, an online real estate company, for $525 million in 2011, and advising BNP Paribas Group on its billions-Euro acquisition of Fortis Bank in 2009. The firm also advised BHP Billiton in its $40 billion offer to acquire PotashCorp, and represented UC RUSAL in its Euronext Paris listing and $2.2 billion Hong Kong-listed IPO, the first Russian company to list in Hong Kong. These deals were among those cited when Cleary was named "US Law Firm of the Year" at the Legal Business Awards in February 2011.

Cleary's penchant for successful "megadeals" was also recognised by LatinFinance magazine with a 2011 "Best Law Firm" award as well as "Deals of the Year" for five bond and equity matters, including counselling the Republic of Chile in its $1.5 billion dual-currency financing, and assisting the issuer in Grupo Comercial Chedraui's IPO, Mexico's first since June 2008. In 2010, the firm acted for Petrobras, Brazil's state-run energy company, on a record-breaking $70 billion follow-on offering-the largest public share offering in history. The funding is part of the company's five-year $224 billion investment plan to exploit offshore oil reserves.

Kings of competition

Cleary's competition group is currently representing Deutsche Telekom AG in its sale, announced in March 2011, of T-Mobile USA to AT&T for $39 billion. At the end of 2010, Cleary helped News Corporation, which already owned a 39 per cent controlling stake in BSkyB, win clearance from the European Commission to purchase the remaining shares. (News Corp later withdrew the bid, amid growing furor surrounding the phone-hacking scandal.)

Sovereign support

As Greece struggles with economic collapse and Europe scrambles to shore up the financially strapped country, the Greek government has turned to Cleary to advise on a debt buyback plan. The firm has extensive experience advising sovereigns on debt issues, with previous clients including the governments of Iceland, Argentina and Chile. In late July 2011, European leaders agreed on a $157 bailout package, including a bond exchange by banks, insurers and other debt holders, to help Greece avoid default and cover its funding needs for the next three years.

Diversity honours

Cleary's ongoing efforts to increase diversity in its London office resulted in the firm's first appearance in Stonewall's "Legal Sector Top 10", a ranking published by the lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) charity in February 2011 to highlight the UK legal sector's top performers in its 2011 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. The firm was one of just two US-based firms to make the list.

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Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP (Europe)

City Place House
55 Basinghall Street
London EC2V 5EH
Phone: +44 (0)20 7614 2200


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Managing Partner: Mark Leddy
  • Total No. Attorneys 2011: 1,100

Major Office Locations

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Beijing, China
  • Washington, DC
  • New York, NY
  • Moscow, Russia
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Paris, France
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Milan, Italy
  • Rome, Italy
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