King & Wood Mallesons global chair Stuart Fuller. (Patrick Leung)
King & Wood Mallesons global managing partner Stuart Fuller will step down by the end of the year, prompting a rapid hunt for a successor.
The global firm confirmed the decision in a statement today, with news of Fuller’s move coming as partners in the troubled European business gear up for a meeting later today about the firm’s stalled recapitalization plans.
The new European leadership team—Europe, UK and Middle East (EUME) managing partner Tim Bednall and senior partner Michael Cziesla—went to China last week to discuss financial support options from the other parts of the Swiss verein after stalling recapitalization plans amid a flood of high profile exits.
Fuller, who has been at the firm’s helm since the merger of King & Wood and Australia’s Mallesons in 2012, will remain a partner at KWM and intends to return to full time practice in Sydney in early 2017.
“After over a decade in leadership roles in Australia and almost five years as global managing partner, I believe it’s the right time for a change for me, my family and the firm, Fuller said in a statement. “I want to thank the partners, lawyers and staff of the global firm for their hard work and support and for the honor of serving as their global managing partner.”
Fuller added that he continues to be excited by the firm’s enormous potential.
KWM global chairman Wang Junfeng, credited Fuller for guiding the firm through its mergers. “The central role he played in the historic combination between King & Wood and Mallesons in 2012 and with SJ Berwin in 2013 is among his many achievements,” he said. “We wish Stuart well for his continued success at KWM.”
Following a partner restructuring announced earlier this year, KWM Europe has seen a number of senior partners head for the door and last month saw four of its highest billing London partners –UK investments funds head Michael Halford, private equity partner Jonathan Pittal, corporate partner Andrew Wingfield and former managing partner Rob Day—hand in their notice. The quartet are understood to have been bringing in around £9 million ($11.23 million) in annual billings.
The departures prompted the firm to halt its recapitalization program, which was intended to bolster the EUME business by bringing in more than £14million ($17.47 million) via a partner capital call. It currently has debts of £35 million ($43.68 million.)
Management has been looking at additional financial support from the Australian and China arms of the verein, as well as whether European partners will need to contribute additional capital to support the business in the wake of the exits. Measures would probably need to be taken to prevent further exits destabilizing the business.