Former Goldman Sachs, Cravath alum launches boutique advisory shop

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A corporate lawyer who cut his teeth working M&A deals for Goldman Sachs in London has put up his own shingle in the U.S. David Willard launched boutique advisory 52 Capital Partners in the San Francisco Bay area in May. He’s looking to add a handful of senior M&A bankers as the firm grows its client base.

Willard started his career at Goldman but spent the vast majority as a corporate lawyer in New York at legal giant Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he said he quarterbacked 42 transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, and debt and equity offerings. Willard’s four career stops include an investment bank, a law firm, a hedge fund and a private equity firm.

Fluent in Mandarin, Willard said the firm will focus particularly on advising North American corporations that have dealings in China, though it will work on transactions on home soil as well. The firm is currently advising former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett on an intellectual property (IP) matter in China.

Transactions and dealings involving IP law will be another main focus for 52 Capital Partners, along with M&A, Willard said. His biggest claim to fame was helping advise NBA star Michael Jordan on his successful appeal to China's Supreme People's Court over trademark infringement in 2016.

Willard said he is currently having conversations with senior M&A bankers and is looking to make a few permanent hires in “the coming weeks and months.”

M&A activity spiked during the second quarter with global advisory revenue up 60% year-over-year as of May. Boutiques have been particularly active in the recruitment of senior M&A bankers in 2018, though big banks have been hiring too.

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