Willkie Farr & Gallagher said Thursday it has bolstered its private equity practice by adding Kirkland & Ellis partner Kirk Radke as a partner in its New York office.
Radke, 55, is a senior partner in Kirkland’s New York office and a leading attorney in the private equity sector. A Kirkland lifer, he joined the firm as an associate in Chicago in 1984 and moved to New York as a partner when the firm launched there in 1990. Radke’s roster of private equity clients includes Apax Partners, Avista Capital Partners and Madison Dearborn Partners.
Radke is also known for commanding hefty fees for his legal services. The Wall Street Journal included him in a 2011 article that focused on attorneys with hourly rates north of $1,000. That article, which cited information compiled from public filings, pegged Radke’s usual hourly fee at $1,250 as of early 2010.
Radke, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, said this about his move in a statement provided by Willkie: “The increasingly complex and sophisticated nature of the private equity environment requires an integrated and focused approach in order to help clients gain a competitive advantage. Willkie’s deep experience, market credibility and integrated approach to private equity deal making, regulation and fund formation provides that advantage. I am pleased to be joining a group of entrepreneurial-minded colleagues and a firm that is highly regarded in the private equity business globally.”
Last year, Radke was part of a Kirkland team that advised Avista-backed Wow Internet, Cable & Phone on its $1.5 billion purchase of broadband communications provider Knology. In 2010 he helped the private equity company buy The Clorox Company’s global auto care business in a $780 million deal. Radke has also represented Apax—whose holdings include ALM Properties, owner and publisher of The Am Law Daily—on its 2011 acquisition of two software companies for roughly $2 billion combined. In 2010, he advised Madison Dearborn on its $915 million purchase of packaging container company BWAY Holding. Radke’s corporate work also includes advising Community Health Systems—a hospital operator previously owned by private equity firm Forstmann Little & Company—on its 2007 acquisition of Triad Hospitals in a $6.8 billion deal.
“Kirk’s joining Willkie further strengthens our private equity platform, which we believe is now recognized by clients and practitioners as one of the very best in the United States and Europe,” Willkie cochairman Steven Gartner said in a statement.
Warburg Pincus is among Willkie’s largest private equity clients, and the firm recently helped that client close a fund worth $11.2 billion. Willkie’s private equity practice also represented Hudson’s Bay Company—which is owned by private equity firm NRDC Equity Partners—on a $2.9 billion purchase of Saks Incorporated, in July, a month after the firm advised Rockwood Holdings on the $1.98 billion sale of CeramTec to fellow private equity firm Cinven.
In leaving Kirkland, Radke is parting ways with a firm that regularly represents such leading private equity clients as Apax, Blackstone, KKR and Thoma Bravo. Kirkland ranked fifth in The American Lawyer’s most recent Am Law 100 rankings of the nation’s highest-grossing firms, with $1.9 billion gross revenue in 2012 and profits per partner of $3.25 million. Willkie placed 59th on the Am Law 100 list, with $533 million in gross revenues in 2012. and profits per partner of $2.07 million.
Willkie did not specify when Radke would officially join the firm.

A Kirkland spokeswoman said in a statement: “We thank Kirk for his many years of service to the firm. We wish him well.”