Contributed by Dr. Benedikt Hohaus, Partner at P+P Pöllath + Partners and Barbara Koch-Schulte, Counsel at P+P Pöllath + Partners
Management participations for top managers have become a standard means of aligning the interests of management and investors. It is especially widespread among private equity funds in the process of acquiring companies, as investors have become very aware of the fact that the attraction and retention of good management is crucial. Consequently, the structuring of management participations has developed into a special product requiring specialized advice with regard to the legal, tax and economic aspects of such participations, not only in Germany but also many other countries.
1) Alternatives to Equity Investments following the Introduction of a Capital Gains Tax in Germany?
Until 2008 a major factor in the 'success' of management equity participations in Germany was the country's favourable capital gains tax regime, which left capital gains tax-free as long as the participation was held for more than 12 months and was equal to less than 1% of a company’s statutory capital. Starting in 2009, Germany established a withholding tax of 25% on any capital income (plus solidarity surcharge and church tax) e.g. on dividends, interest of any kind and on capital gains for shares acquired during or after 2009. These changes did not eliminate the attractiveness of management equity participations from a tax point of view, but reduced it substantially when the income tax rate on employment income of up to 45% plus solidarity surcharge and church tax was taken into account.
Following this development, some investors considered structuring management participations as debt instruments, e.g. sub-participations, warrants, etc., which would allow managers to benefit from the reduced tax rate and enable the paying company to deduct the interest payments as business expenses. However, in practice, the tax authorities accepted payments on debt investments as capital income only in so far as they represented a marketable interest rate for bonds and comparable debt instruments. Any overpayments (and sometimes the total proceeds), e.g. resulting from exit proceeds, were qualified as fully taxable employment income. Equity investments therefore remained the preferred investment form for management participations despite the taxability of capital gains.
2) Stronger Focus on Management Participations by the Tax Administration
In addition, the tax administration has increasingly focused on management participations. It has learned about the specific structures of these participations and developed arguments to challenge them and qualify all or part of the proceeds thereof as employment income:
- Acquisition of beneficial ownership in the shares, e.g. because of restrictions in the disposal, resulting in the qualification of proceeds as employment income instead of capital income.
- Entry valuation of shares compared to acquisition costs paid by management; acquisition at an undervalued price leads to a fully taxable benefit.
- Allocation of management participations to the employment and thereby qualification of proceeds thereof as employment income, irrespective of any capital investment made.
a) Beneficial Ownership in Shares
Beneficial ownership in shares is acknowledged in so far as the shareholders are entitled not only to economic rights from the shares, but also to administration rights, especially voting rights. In fact, management shareholders are minority shareholders and, as such, are bound by tag- and drag-along rights in case of an exit. Furthermore, they usually hold their shares via pooling vehicles, e.g. limited partnerships, and are often subject to call options in case they terminate their employment (leaver scheme). These features are standard features of management participations and, as such, do not result in a denial of beneficial ownership in general. However, since the qualification of beneficial ownership depends on a general qualification of the given facts in total, the tax authorities benefit from the ability to use a certain amount of discretion in their judgment, which makes it difficult to fix a 'borderline'.
b) Acquisition at Fair Market Value
Income tax may occur upon acquisition of a management participation if the shares are acquired at a price below their fair market value. In the determination of the fair market value, the tax administration refers to the general valuation principles for companies, thereby leaving a wide range of probable values. To be on the safe side, management participations should be implemented at the time of or shortly after the investor’s entry into the company.
c) Allocation of the Participation to the Manager’s Employment
The last argument listed above results from a so-called 'obiter dictum' made by the German Supreme Tax Court, in which it came to the conclusion that management participations do not lead to employment income if the following three conditions are met:
- Shares are offered only to certain managers of a company, but not to the public.
- Management shareholders are not allowed to freely dispose of the shares.
- Management shareholders are obliged to sell their shares if they leave the employing company.
This decision set out clear guidelines for the structuring of management participations for the first time and, due to this, was welcomed by tax advisors. In turn, the Supreme Tax Court explained that there may be situations beyond the case decision that would allow a capital investment to overlap with the employment relationship and would thereby qualify capital income as employment income.
Management equity participations still constitute the primary configuration for the alignment of interests between management and private equity investors. However, recent developments in the taxation of management equity participations makes it necessary for all parties involved to structure these shareholdings carefully and involve specialized advisors.
Due to the number of tables in this section, the editorial is in alphabetical order
by firm name.
Private Equity - Germany
THE FIRM This private equity team is experiencing a period of growth, recently welcoming private equity and M&A specialist Benedikt von Schorlemer, formerly of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Clients praise the firm's integrated international network and committed approach. The team's recent cross-border work includes its advice to Allianz Capital Partners on the acquisition of participations in Norwegian joint venture Gassled, which was valued at EUR580 million.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Heading the department is Nikolaus von Jacobs, who led the group's cross-border advice to Allianz Capital Partners.
Benedikt von Schorlemer advises domestic as well as international clients on acquisitions, divestitures, restructurings and carve-outs. An expert in private equity and M&A matters, he has notable experience working with clients in the telecommunications, chemical and automotive industries.
THE FIRM This international giant remains a leading light within the private equity world. It has won a number of new clients of late, including Triton, Bridgepoint and Chequers Capital. Further recent highlights include acting for the vendor in Montagu's sale of BSN Medical. The team has also frequently been advising client HgCapital, notably regarding the sales of SLV Group and Mondo Minerals. Clients appreciate the international platform the firm is able to provide and the team's ability to quickly mobilise its resources.
Sources say: "The team works incredibly efficiently and the service quality is great." "A top-ranking global firm with international coverage, an excellent partner network and depth in numbers when needed."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Practice leader Oliver Felsenstein is consistently recommended as "outstanding." Sources say: "He is very commercial, very experienced, responsive and has a very good standing in the market. He has a very good ability to form solid teams in an efficient manner. He is not one of these dry technical guys - he understands the market very well and has a commercial approach."
Clients enthuse about Christopher Kellett, saying: "He is very responsive, commercial and knows exactly what a client needs." Others say: "He is excellent to work with. He is qualified in both the UK and Germany, which is extremely helpful to pan-European clients - he is completely able to work across both systems and always hits the ground running."
Munich-based Burc Hesse is lauded as "a very efficient negotiator and a very good communicator - he points out potential problems in the deal at the right time." He recently advised HgCapital on the sale of SLV Group.
THE FIRM This firm comes highly recommended for its strength in advising on the three main areas of private equity work: large-cap and mid-cap deals, as well as venture capital. The sizeable private equity and venture capital group remains one of the largest in Germany and recently acquired new client Capcellence, advising the company on the acquisition of majority shares in 4WHEELS Service + Logistik. Regarding the venture capital market, the group advised on the sale of ICIDO to the ESI Group. The team is praised in the private equity arena for its business acumen and negotiation skills.
Sources say: "Very experienced lawyers and a really strong team."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Martin Bell "has been a well-known and strong player for many years in private equity." His specialist focus lies in private equity, banking and finance and M&A matters.
Ulrich Springer remains highly active and advises on many of the firm's key deals, including working with clients Cipio Partners, HeidelbergCapital, LBBW Venture Capital and VCG Venture Capital regarding the sale of ICIDO to the ESI Group.
In Stuttgart, Udo Simmat remains a notable presence within the private equity market.
THE FIRM The German branch of this global powerhouse maintains its prolific activity in the private equity sector after another successful year. Clients appreciate the team's capabilities to advise on all aspects of a deal as well as its international network. Recent activity includes EQT's EUR1.8 billion acquisition of BSN medical from Montagu Private Equity. The team was able to call upon the cartel law strength of the firm's Washington, DC office, as well as the corporate and employment law expertise of the Paris office. The firm recently founded a 'global financial investors' sector group, with the aim of combining its wealth of international expertise acting for private equity, sovereign wealth funds, infrastructure funds and alternative capital providers.
Sources say: "In terms of recognition and deal volume, Freshfields is definitely amongst the market leaders." "The group has managed very well to produce and build up the next generation of very good and strong people."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Glowing praise goes to Andreas von Werder, who is described as "without a doubt, one of the best private equity guys in Germany."
Düsseldorf-based Anselm Raddatz has extensive experience advising on M&A, corporate restructurings and private equity matters.
Andreas Fabritius is admired for "combining private equity expertise and corporate governance knowledge."
Nils Matthias Koffka in Hamburg remains a revered figure in this sector, with sources describing him as "a really good name in private equity."
Co-head of the global financial investors group, Ludwig Leyendecker receives a tremendous amount of positive feedback from impressed market sources: "He is a brilliant lawyer who you can really trust - you always feel safe going into negotiations with him, and he is also very commercial in his assessments. He is good at finding compromises."
Enthusiastic market feedback propels Markus Paul up the rankings: "Markus is great to work with - despite his young age, he is very experienced. He has a cool and collected personality, and doesn't get rattled easily."
Munich-based Ferdinand Fromholzer advises private equity funds and corporate entities. Sources say: "He has a strong reputation and for good reason - his drafted agreements are of a high quality and he has a very pragmatic approach."
THE FIRM This private equity team has retained its impressive clientele on the strength and quality of its work, as well as recently expanding its client portfolio. A large part of the group's work in recent months has been advising on the restructuring of portfolio companies. A highlight for the team saw it advise Japanese company Nisshinbo Holdings on the acquisition of leading brake friction producer TMD Friction Group from Pamplona Capital. Long-standing key client The Blackstone Group continues to instruct the firm, and new client wins include Tyrus Capital and Endeavour Capital.
Sources say: "Certainly a high-quality firm."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Jan Bauer in Frankfurt is providing ongoing advice to Eurazeo regarding its investment in Apcoa. Market observers state they are "impressed by way he defends the interests of his client and how he deals with difficult issues."
Head of corporate Christian Cascante is based in Stuttgart and is described as a "star" in this legal field.
THE FIRM This national giant remains a standout name in the private equity market. New client representations feature Capvis Equity Partners and WestLB. Recent notable mandates for the group include advising KPS Capital Partners on the acquisition of Bosch Foundation Brakes. The transaction involved multi-jurisdictional filings as well as German merger control proceedings. Traditionally recognised for its substantial presence within the large-cap transactional field, the team is gaining a strong foothold in the mid-cap arena.
Sources say: "Top-quality work and a very dedicated team - it would go through fire for its clients." "For large transactions in private equity, the firm is gold standard."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sources admire Hans-Jörg Ziegenhain, naming him "one of the real big players in private equity." He recently advised E.ON on the sale of a 40% stake in HEAG.
The "fantastic and incredible" Christof Jäckle in Frankfurt advised Wellington Management on acquiring a stake in Probiodrug.
Maximilian Schiessl in Düsseldorf earns enthusiastic feedback for his contribution to private equity: "Really high-quality, outstanding advice and very hard-working." He has been busy of late, advising ThyssenKrupp in the carve-out and sale of Inoxum to Outokumpu.
Jochen Vetter is lauded as "a very good negotiator and very creative in finding solutions - he is one of the few truly commercial lawyers."
THE FIRM This private equity group has a strong focus on mid-cap transactions, offering clients comprehensive nationwide coverage. Clients for the sizeable team are predominantly domestic and international financial investors, ranging from private equity funds to family offices. The firm has been kept busy of late by key client Odewald & Cie regarding various sale and acquisition mandates, and Capcellence Mittelstandspartner on the sale of Qundis in a mid-cap sector bidding process.
Sources say: "The lawyers deliver high-quality work to the end. They give proactive advice whilst looking at things from a different perspective - broad approach with good results."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Peter Christian Schmidt is the contact for the practice.
THE FIRM This boutique firm is recognised in the market for its activity in small to mid-cap deals within the technology sector. Advising on all areas of private equity transactions, including LBOs and PIPE transactions, the group also assists clients with acquisition strategies and the necessary financing.
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "well-connected and experienced" Thomas Heymann remains a well-reputed figure in private equity and in the acquisition and restructuring of technological organisations.
THE FIRM This private equity and venture capital group has a strong focus on venture capital deals. The team recently advised new client Deutsche Telekom Venture Funds regarding investments in My Taxi, Jamii and 6 Wunderkinder. Another important deal for the group involved the firm's Brussels, Shanghai, Dubai and New York offices, advising family-owned Weissker Group on the acquisition of the insolvent NDT Systems & Services. The team frequently advises renowned private equity firms, such as Advent International, Quadriga Capital and The Carlyle Group.
Sources say: "Outstanding service - I would expect nothing less from such a good firm but the team really went the extra mile."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "Excellent lawyer" Joachim Habetha heads the department and led the group's work for Weissker Group in acquiring the insolvent NDT Systems & Services.
THE FIRM This global giant's private equity practice assists clients from a broad range of industry sectors, including telecommunications, pharmaceutical and automotive. A notable recent mandate saw the group advise The Riverside Company on its largest European acquisition to date, that of KEYMILE-Group. Further clients for the group include Goldman Sachs, One Equity Partners and Star Capital.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Market observers are impressed by department head Ivo Posluschny: "A very commercially minded lawyer and a great support. His English is excellent, which is very important." He has notable experience in complex private equity transactions and recently advised Ventech on investment in asgoodas.nu, a French/German venture capital and private equity funds cross-border mandate.
THE FIRM Traditionally known as a firm with great strength in fund structuring matters, this private equity group moves up the rankings this year after tremendous recommendations for its venture capital work. A notable mandate for the firm of late saw the team advise new client Star Capital Partners on the acquisition of ThyssenKrupp's civil shipbuilding arm, Blohm + Voss. The group's growing portfolio includes recent client wins Eton Park International and Exclusive Networks Group. Clients benefit from the firm's solid pan-European platform.
Sources say: "The firm is excellent on the commercial side, as well as having the big advantage of a very strong tax structuring team." "A leading firm in venture capital work."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Head of department Julian Lemor leads the firm's corporate department in Germany, and is the key contact for private equity matters.
THE FIRM This Munich-based team specialises in German and cross-border M&A and private equity transactions. The group benefits greatly from its impressive international connections through its UK and US offices. A notable highlight saw the team advise key client Gilde Buy Out Partners on the acquisition of Eismann, one of Europe's leading direct sellers of frozen food. Further clients include Sun European Partners and Vision Capital.
Sources say: "An outstanding firm."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Market observers describe Volker Kullmann as "a strong name - he is someone to always take seriously." Further impressed interviewees state: "He is very practical and business-oriented, and knows how to get things done."
Sources say Christian Zuleger is "technically strong and very commercial." Alongside Volker Kullmann, he has led many of the firm's key mandates for Gilde Buy Out Partners.
THE FIRM Clients are impressed by this US firm's dominant European presence in the field of private equity. The group demonstrates its integrated approach and truly global reach in its cross-border work for Ventizz Capital Partners. The team advised this client on its acquisition of a 49% minority stake in the Spanish manufacturer for solar power company Rioglass Solar Holding. This further displays the team's industry sector focus on energy, cleantech and healthcare. Recent times also saw the team advise Apollo Global Management on the complex draft purchase agreement and offer for all shares in Westdeutsche ImmobilienBank.
Sources say: "An excellent law firm - you feel you are in the best hands with them when it comes to legal issues." "The team is able to draw on skills in various jurisdictions - the firm has the full range of capabilities and can act as a one-stop shop."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Jörg Kirchner in Munich receives impressive client feedback: "He is obviously very solid on German law, but is also very commercial as a lawyer, which is pretty rare." "We are impressed by his deep knowledge and experience in the M&A market. He is very much performance and results-driven. It just took one short call and things were moving."
Frankfurt-based Dirk Oberbracht recently led the group's work with One Equity Partners on the acquisition of global reusable containers and multi-trip systems specialist Linpac Allibert.
THE FIRM This group remains a highly visible presence in the private equity market, and wins praise for its commercial and pragmatic advice. The firm receives further praise for its integrated approach, benefiting from its strength in tax structuring matters. The team counts advising a consortium on the successful acquisition of German long-distance gas distribution network 'Open Grid Europe' from E.ON, valued at more than EUR3 billion, amongst its greatest recent successes. A recent key client win for the group was The Gores Group, which it advised on the successful acquisition of ELO Touch Solutions. The transaction involved more than 17 global jurisdictions.
Sources say: "The lawyers are much more pragmatic and commercial than others in the market - they understand which points are key in negotiations."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Described as "a real practitioner and character in the consulting market," Ulrich Wolff advises both investment banks and corporate clients on M&A and private equity matters.
Ralph Drebes recently led the team's work with new client The Gores Group regarding its acquisition of ELO Touch Solutions. Sources say: "He has a very Anglo-Saxon mindset - he understands how foreign clients do deals, whereas a lot of German lawyers can be over-technical. He is also very pragmatic." "He rolls up his sleeves, doesn't necessarily outsource to other parts of the firm, is commercial and flexible."
Head of department Rainer Traugott receives a wealth of praise from impressed market observers: "He is a very experienced guy in the PE world - not only does he know the technical elements of the trade, but he is also very helpful on the commercial side and providing good arguments to the other side - this can be difficult to find in law firms. He finds creative alternatives and is able to articulate them in a conversation with the other side to win an argument."
THE FIRM As well as advising on the more traditional aspects of private equity, such as large to mid-cap LBOs, this team excels in combining corporate and M&A expertise with private equity knowledge to offer the best service to its clients. The group represents clients in complex transactions in this sector, including PIPEs and further minority participations. The team has recently received instruction from Vitruvian Partners regarding the planned acquisition of Wer liefert was (WLW). The team's impressive clientele includes The Carlyle Group, GS Capital Partners and DZ Equity Partners.
Sources say: "The quality, breadth and depth of the firm's legal advice is spot-on. The team is extremely flexible and very timely when there is a clear deadline."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The highly esteemed and experienced Peter Nussbaum is described in the market as "outstanding" and "clearly one of the greats." He has been advising on D+S europe's sale of the call centre division to CMP Capital Management-Partners.
Leading figure Norbert Rieger is praised for being "really at the top." He has advised on the investment of The Carlyle Group in Ameos Group.
Peter Memminger is lauded as "the go-to person for everything in the German market - incredibly intelligent, very swift, very firm and mature. He is such a good, calm and sensible person - he always presents arguments in a logical way, is always informed and works incredibly hard." He worked on The Carlyle Group's investment in Ameos Group.
THE FIRM This niche firm remains highly reputed for its unrivalled expertise in fund structuring, venture capital and management participation programmes. Recent work highlights for the private equity team include Equistone Partners Europe's acquisition of automotive supplier E. Winkemann, as well as advising on Deutsche Sparkassen Leasing's acquisition of all shares of Universal Factoring from WestLB.
Sources say: "The team is extremely easy to work with and understands very quickly what the client needs."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Founding partner Matthias Bruse specialises in M&A and private equity transactions, as well as advising family-owned businesses. He recently advised the Brost family members on selling their 50% stake in the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung group.
Benedikt Hohaus is revered for his prowess in advising on management deals within the private equity sector. He frequently advises key client EQT.
Sources say practice group co-ordinator Otto Haberstock is "always concerned about getting things done quickly but right. He really concentrates on what he is doing and he leads clients through the process very well." He was recently instructed by Körber concerning the sale of stakes in Paper Systems.
Viewed as "one of the main players in the venture capital market," Michael Inhester recently worked with Robert Bosch VC on the sale of shares in IDENT Technology.
"Strong practitioner" Philipp Von Braunschweig has advised Brockhaus Private Equity regarding the sale of Resorba to Advanced Medical Solutions.
Sources say Andrea von Drygalski provides "grounded advice, strong engagement and is highly service-oriented." She advised Barclays Private Equity on its acquisition of water systems company QASE from Cognetas.
THE FIRM This international firm continues to expand and strengthen its activity in the venture capital sector, most notably with the addition of private equity, venture and growth capital expert Justus Binder. The private equity team has attracted a number of new clients in recent months including British Gas Venture Capital (GB Gas Holdings), ASTUTIA Equity Partners and Target Partners Fund II.
Sources say: "Excellent service and an enviable pan-European footprint."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Clients describe Justus Binder as "pragmatic, cost-efficient and a good negotiator, with the ability to really focus on the right matters." He is head of the German private equity practice and has recently advised newly acquired client Target Partners Fund II. He earns further market recognition for his expertise in venture capital issues.
THE FIRM Excellent client feedback propels Rödl & Partner into the rankings this year. Best known for its expertise in tax advisory and auditing, the firm gains increased market recognition for its strong venture capital team. Key clients for the group include Sirius Venture Partners and DuMont Ventures, and it recently became a panel member of venture capital investment firm High-Tech Gründerfonds. Further areas of focus include advising private equity firms on investment management and transactions.
Sources say: "The lawyers are strong in both German and English and produce high-quality work."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Gerhard Wacker heads the firm's venture capital practice and is earning strong market recognition: "He's an excellent adviser - capable of looking at things from both sides. He finds good and fair solutions." "He has a good level of expertise and is very hands-on - he delivers solutions."
THE FIRM Clients enthuse over this team's responsiveness and straightforward approach to work. The group focuses on the structuring and execution of domestic and international private equity transactions. An ongoing mandate sees the firm representing Equistone Partners Europe in its EUR210 million sale of b2b direct marketing company Ratioform Verpackungsmittel to TAKKT. The team is also working with Doughty Hanson UK portfolio company Vue Entertainment on its acquisition of the German CinemaxX.
Sources say: "The team has a very constructive and sensitive approach towards the needs of the situation - the lawyers are able, willing and capable enough to find solutions in difficult discussions. In negotiation situations, they are capable of defending their positions in a friendly but insistent manner, showing their patience and commitment to solving problems."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Walter Henle heads the firm's private equity group. Sources say: "He's a nice guy - technically strong and very pragmatic."
"Very strong lawyer" Matthias Jaletzke leads the firm's work in Vue Entertainment's acquisition of CinemaxX.
Clients enthuse over Lutz Zimmer's client-oriented approach: "He always makes himself available - weekend, nights, holidays, we spend a lot of time with him." He advises Equistone Partners Europe on its sale of Ratioform.
THE FIRM The private equity group of this global firm is highly regarded for its work in venture capital matters, and has been working with Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg on sample investment documentation as well as future support for around 30 venture capital investments. The team also recently advised a private equity fund managed by Münchener AFINUM Management, AF Eigenkapitalfonds für deutschen Mittelstand, on a minority share acquisition in Vacufol and ORWO Net. Clients highly appreciate the firm's full-service approach and high quality client service.
Sources say: "What we like is that it has all of the relevant know-how in the team - from tax to banking to legal issues regarding financing. A one-stop shop." "Very happy - we felt it to be a very personal service even though the firm is huge."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Head of corporate Peter Hellich remains an active participant in the private equity arena, and has been kept busy advising on the formation of a German management company for client Ambienta’s future investments in German-speaking jurisdictions.
Ernst-Albrecht von Beauvais focuses on domestic and global private equity and venture capital transactions. He advised on a private equity fund managed by Münchener AFINUM Management, AF Eigenkapitalfonds für deutschen Mittelstand, on a minority share acquisition in Vacufol and ORWO Net.
THE FIRM Forming part of the firm's corporate group, this private equity team is known for its work with sizeable technology funds and private equity firms involved in distressed transactions. A recent highlight for the team was advising Summit Partners on one of its largest European investments to date. It centred around the acquisition of a majority stake in a leading global provider of web-based trading technology for OTC financial instruments, 360 Treasury Systems (360T Group). Further notable clients include Bregal Capital, Strategic Value Partners and Oaktree Capital Management.
Sources say: "A good firm - strong on restructurings."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Gerhard Schmidt heads the department and is described as "an excellent rainmaker for the firm and a very good transactional lawyer." He recently led the group's work for Summit Partners on its acquisition of a majority share in 360T Group.
THE FIRM Moving up the rankings this year on the strength of impressive market recommendations is this international firm's private equity practice. The group is working for many private equity houses such as Deutsche Beteiligungs and Nordic Capital. Newly acquired client H.I.G. European Capital Partners recently instructed the firm regarding Green Building Group's first acquisition of Hanlo Group, the Austrian-German prefabricated house specialist.
Sources say: "Excellent global footprint." "Very business-oriented and pragmatic."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Munich-based Christoph von Einem clearly remains a recognised practitioner in this legal field: "Certainly one of the most active figures at White & Case and he has built up the firm's venture practice - he is prominent on the venture capital side." He led the firm's work with H.I.G. European Capital Partners regarding Green Building Group's acquisition of Hanlo Group.
Department co-head Andreas Stilcken led the group's work for pan-European private equity firm Cognetas (now Motion Equity Partners), regarding the sale of KSM Castings to Chinese company CITIC Dicastal Wheel Manufacturing.
THE FIRM This private equity team continues to expand and attract an impressive array of new clients, such as TA Associates, Waterland and Novum Capital. The four-partner group recently advised AXA Private Equity on the proprietary sale of the home shopping TV channel HSE24 to Providence Partners. A further sizeable and complex equity transaction for the practice in recent times has been EQT Partners' investment in a multi-store e-commerce business, internetstores.
Sources say: "The lawyers are very reliable, proactive and always fully complied with what we needed them to do."
KEY INDIVIDUALS A leading light in private equity, department head Mario Schmidt wins widespread praise: "He's very pragmatic, commercial and has a very strong client focus - a joy to work with." "He is very creative in negotiations." He led the firm's recent work for AXA Private Equity regarding the proprietary sale of HSE24 to Providence Partners.
Nikolaus Reinhuber of Baker & McKenzie heads the firm's private equity practice. Clients describe him as "a very seasoned lawyer with excellent legal understanding. He is somebody that we think very highly of." He also co-heads the corporate group.
Also at Baker & McKenzie, Gerald Schumann is impressing clients with his legal prowess in the private equity arena. He co-led the firm's work for ACM Projektentwicklung regarding the sale of a minority shareholding in Leica Camera to The Blackstone Group.
Head of private equity at Raue LLP, Andreas Nelle earns plaudits from highly satisfied clients: "An excellent negotiator with good diplomatic skills, and a strong ability to organise the deal - he can effectively organise complex cross-border transactions involving different time zones and cultures."
Corporate and commercial law specialist and "excellent lawyer" Ulf Renzenbrink of Renzenbrink Raschke von Knobelsdorff Heiser remains a respected practitioner in this market.