ALLENS ARTHUR ROBINSON (AAR) this week announced a win in the appointment of Lovells Tokyo managing partner Tim Lester.
In a rare move for the Australian firm to make lateral hires, Lester’s appointment marks the firm’s determination to invest in the Perth market.
AAR chairman Jim Thynne said the appointment comes as the firm’s Western Australian practice has grown by 33 per cent to 140 people in the past two years.
“We are confident that Tim will make a strong contribution to what we expect to be similarly strong growth in the coming years.”
Lester’s place as one of the more experienced and respected lawyers in capital finance and structured finance was reinforced last week at the ALB Japan Law Awards, held at the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo.
Scooping up the International Dealmaker of the Year award for himself, Lovells also won the M&A Deal of the Year, Japan Deal of the Year, and the Securitisation Deal of the Year.
In an interview with Lawyers Weekly, Lester said he was very pleased to get the International Dealmaker of the Year gong, but joked that it “sounds a lot grander than perhaps it is”.
Allens is pleased to have this dealmaker of the year on their books though, and chairman Thynne said his appointment is an excellent one for the firm’s Perth office.
“[Lester] knows the Perth environment well having been raised and educated there, he’s been known to the firm for a number of years, he’s a highly-ranked international lawyer in the corporate and finance fields and has proven leadership experience,” he said.
Lester does know the Perth market well; though he admits he has been out of Australia for 13 years. He has been at Lovells’ Tokyo office since May 2001 and has been managing partner since 2004. Prior to that he was in the firm’s office in London, and in Tokyo and Hong Kong before that. He started off in Parker & Parker in Perth, which merged with Freehills, and is a “Perth boy originally”.
Now, though, he drives the structured finance and capital markets practice in Tokyo and has also been doing some corporate finance work. Capital markets has been a mixture of securitisation work, he said, and he has acted on a number of significant corporate finance matters.
He worked on the acquisition of Vodafone Japan by SoftBank, which was the biggest leverage buyout (LBO) in Asia when he completed the deal. The refinancing of that was done by way of a whole-business securitisation that Lester led. That was also the largest securitisation of its nature to date.
As well, Lester last month completed a US$ 12.5 ($15) billion portfolio risk transfer for large Japanese insurer Tokyo Marine. “It’s been a hectic 18 months really,” he said.
Pressed as to why he would return to Australia while he is so successful in Tokyo, Lester admits it is for personal reasons. While Tokyo is a “great market to be in and the economy is doing really well”, he has been out of Australia for 13 years, in Japan for just over 6, and “it’s time to return home”.
He is also returning to Perth so that his children can experience living in Australia. “I have children and I’d like to give them the opportunity to experience Australia and grow up in Australia. As much as leaving Japan will be difficult, and I have been rather successful, I am returning for personal reasons — I think that is the way we describe it.”
Lester has three children, the eldest is 10, the middle is 7 going on 8, and “the youngest is 6 going on 26”. Two of the children were born when he was in London and the eldest was born in Hong Kong. His wife is Japanese, but none of the children were born in their birthplaces of their parents. “They have grown up entirely overseas yet they really associate themselves with Australia. So it is time to give them the opportunity to live there,” he said.
Lester added that in terms of returning to Australia, the timing is very good. He will join AAR’s corporate practice, and will be using some of his finance skills set. With Perth’s current high deal activity, he said it is very difficult for firms to find lawyers at the junior end, let along the senior end of the market.
Lester is currently working through his notice period at Lovells and is yet to firm-up a start date with AAR.