AlixPartners adds Big Four expertise to UK restructuring wing

13 August 2021 4 min. read
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AlixPartners has announced the four new senior hires as it looks to boost the expertise of its restructuring practice. Jessica Clayton, Lee Watson and Joe O’Connor join the firm’s London office from EY, while Esben Christensen transfers to the locale from AlixPartners’ US practice.

Commenting on the news, AlixPartners CEO Simon Freakley said, “Lee, Jessica, Joe, and Esben bring substantial creditor and debtor advisory expertise to our thriving UK practice, building on our long history of success in the restructuring industry. The addition of deep creditor advisory experience, in particular, confirms our ability to offer market-leading advice in the UK across the entire restructuring spectrum… Our clients will benefit tremendously from this enhanced suite of expertise as they continue to navigate the disruptive effects of the pandemic on their businesses.”

Arriving as managing directors, the quartet of senior appointments add further momentum to the growth of AlixPartners’ financial restructuring team in the UK. According to a release from the firm, the news enhances the UK practice’s experience in advising creditor groups and companies in stressed and distressed situations.

AlixPartners adds Big Four expertise to UK restructuring wing

Lee Watson and Jessica Clayton specialise in creditor advisory work, with over four decades of experience between them of advising lenders through multi-stakeholder restructuring situations. Their work with EY has seen them work across the UK, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

At the same time, Joe O’Connor is an expert restructuring adviser and insolvency practitioner, with over 20 years of experience in advising corporates, lenders, shareholders, and other stakeholders on financial restructuring, options analysis, enforcement planning, and insolvency. An elected council member of R3, the leading professional trade body for the UK’s restructuring and insolvency sector, the industry veteran has worked on complex restructuring situations across a wide range of global industries and created and led the life sciences and healthcare restructuring team at EY.

Finally, Esben Christensen brings an additional global perspective to the AlixPartners UK Turnaround and Restructuring Services practice from his work across Asia, Europe, and South America. With almost two decades of experience in whole company turnarounds, interim management, restructurings, and complex operational improvement programs, his expertise is primarily in debtor and company-side advisory work.

Regulatory shifts

Changes to the regulation of the UK’s audit and advisory market are having wide-ranging impacts on the industry’s biggest players. Sustained pressure from the nation’s audit watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has seen the Big Four of KPMG, PwCDeloitte and EY effectively banned from conducting advisory work for audit clients in the wake of a number of accounting scandals. This split which has left many of the firms worried previously lucrative income streams such as restructuring operations will have their future growth inhibited.

In recent months, this has seen the Big Four caught in two minds about how best to proceed with their restructuring operations. KPMG offloaded its practice entirely at the turn of the year in a deal worth “hundreds of millions.” Meanwhile Deloitte’s national and global leadership has publicly disagreed on whether it should follow suit. In the meantime, amid the uncertainty, professionals from the Big Four’s remaining restructuring wings have regularly been departing for firms specialising in insolvency work.

Arguably exemplifying this shift, while Clayton, Watson and O’Connor are the latest to join AlixPartners, they are not the only ones. Alex Czerniewski and Richard Harrison who joined the firm from EY as Directors in June 2021, and last year Deloitte partners Tom Scampion and Mo Habbas joined the firm’s London wing. Meanwhile, in the summer of 2021, Alvarez & Marsal added Nick Walton, Jack Hollyman and John Bettley-Smith to its tax wing, all also from Deloitte – as well as Wayne Brown from EY.