John Tivey, the lead partner in the mining practice at Freehills, is leaving the Australian firm to join White & Case in Hong Kong.
Freehills has confirmed that Tivey has resigned and will be joining White & Case later in the year. In an emailed statement, chief executive partner Gavin Bell called Tivey's departure "regrettable" but said the parting was amicable. He also stated that the firm's mining practice would remain strong.
"Freehills retains a deep bench of talent in corporate and mining that is clearly the best in the region," said Bell.
White & Case declined to comment. Tivey, who has mostly been based in Freehills' Melbourne office with stints in Singapore and Jakarta, did not return a call seeking comment.
Heavy investment in Australia's mining sector from Asia, particularly China, has driven a boom in cross-border mergers and acquisitions activity. Last year, Tivey advised state-owned China Minmetals Resources Ltd. on two major deals: a successful $1.35 billion acquisition of Perth-based Anvil Mining Ltd. and an unsuccessful $6.5 billion bid for Australian-Canadian copper company Equinox Minerals Ltd.
The increased volume of such deals has been a major factor in international firms' interest in Australia in recent years. Since 2010, Magic Circle firms Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance have both opened offices there, while Norton Rose, Ashurst and King & Wood have all combined with large Aussie firms.
Freehills and Herbert Smith have publicly acknowledged that they are discussing a combination as well. Sources close to the situation say Tivey's departure is not expected to have an impact on those talks, which have moved on to commercial terms with an eye to having partners vote within the next two months.