Covington snags ex-Linklaters antitrust chief amid EU competition crackdown

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The Covington & Burling offices in Washington, D.C., U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Christian Ahlborn served as global head of antitrust at Linklaters
  • Rival firms hiring antitrust lawyers as EU prepares new regulatory push

Christian Ahlborn, former global head of antitrust at Linklaters, is leaving this summer to join Covington & Burling's Brussels office as a partner, as large law firms gear up to advise clients on new EU rules governing competitive digital markets.

London-based Ahlborn had co-led Linklaters' technology sector team, and has worked at the firm for nearly 30 years. He has helped to guide Linklaters clients including Microsoft Corp, Unilever Plc and Lloyds Banking Group Plc.

Ahlborn did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.

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Last month, EU countries and lawmakers reached a deal on landmark rules that could curb the power of major technology companies. The Digital Markets Act's digital "gatekeeper" rules are designed to prohibit companies from favoring their own services over those of rivals.

EU antitrust leaders are also preparing to consider new ways to streamline existing competition rules that have imposed billions of euros in fines against technology companies.

Johan Ysewyn, co-chair of Covington's global antitrust practice, said there's a demand now for antitrust and competition lawyers. He attributed some of the hiring to a growing need for compliance advice, more investigations in the digital sector and increasingly labor-intensive legal work.

"The merger and competition investigations have become more data-intensive and document-driven, which of course requires larger teams," he said.

Another former Linklaters antitrust leader, Jonas Koponen, jumped in March to Cooley's office in Brussels, where the EU's competition office is headquartered. In March, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton added former Linklaters antitrust partner Isabel Rooms in Brussels.

Thomas Barnett and Anne Lee, co-chairs of Covington's global antitrust practice, said in a statement Ahlborn's arrival at the Washington, D.C.-based, 1,100-lawyer firm will expand its ability to "guide clients through their most complex antitrust issues that require deep expertise on both sides of the Atlantic."

Linklaters has nearly 2,900 lawyers working from more than 30 offices across the globe. The firm wished Ahlborn the best in a statement Friday.

The firm said Ahlborn stepped down from his antitrust role in October.

Linklaters appointed Nicole Kar in March as global head of its antitrust and foreign investment team, which is made up of more than 50 partners and counsel.

(This article updates the timing of when Christian Ahlborn stepped down as Linklaters’ global antitrust head).

Read more:

Cooley adds Linklaters' former antitrust head in Brussels

Kirkland & Ellis hires Allen & Overy lawyer as antitrust partner in UK

Norton Rose snags antitrust partner with Big Tech track record

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