Robert Williams will lead the expansion of Watson Farley & Williams' hotels and hospitality practice into Asia-Pacific.

There’s been a major shake-up in the Asia-Pacific hotel legal sector, with top lawyers Robert Williams, Kate Switajewski, Chris Greiner and Lada Shelkovnikova departing Withers Worldwide for one the globe’s most highly regarded firms, Watson Farley & Williams (WFW).

The team, led by Williams as Asia-Pacific Head of Hotels & Leisure, will be based in Sydney and Singapore and the move represents a significant step forward for WFW, which will see the firm expand its hotels and hospitality practice into Asia-Pacific and launch into Australia.

Williams, who alongside Shelkovnikova was recognised by Who’s Who Legal in 2020 as a Global Thought Leader in hospitality in Asia Pacific, said it was an exciting new chapter for the team.

“Lada and I are excited to be joining to WFW, in particular given the firm’s global leadership, focus and track record in our sector,” he said.

Kate Switajewski

“We look forward to making our contribution to WFW’s global hotels and hospitality offering.”

Williams will be driving the expansion of WFW’s Asia-Pacific hotels and leisure practice at a time when activity in the sector is significant.

“Joining WFW enhances our team’s regional coverage, with the ability to better service the Thailand, Vietnam and Middle East markets through offices in Bangkok, Hanoi and Dubai,” he said.

“The hotel and resort industry has been through a challenging 12 months, and faces ongoing headwinds ahead of full recovery.

“Some in the sector are under pressure, whilst other of our many hotel owner, operator, investor and developer clients across APAC and the ME see significant opportunity. 

“We will continue to partner with and closely support those clients, further expanding our hospitality teams in Sydney and Singapore in the coming months,” he said.

Lada Shelkovnikova

Williams is a recognised expert across the Asia-Pacific region in hotel and resort M&A, investment and structuring as well as management contracts and operating leases, co-ownership schemes, franchising, hotel operating platforms and joint ventures.

Shelkovnikova is highly regarded by the hotels industry in APAC and beyond, and joins WFW in Singapore. She specialises in all aspects of hotel M&A and operator appointments, branded residences arrangements and serviced apartments in the region. 

Shelkovnikova also has extensive experience acting in-sector in the Middle-East, having spent several years at a leading UAE law firm in Dubai.

WFW Managing Partner, Chris Lowe, said: “Our new team gives our Hotels & Hospitality practice a greatly expanded presence on the ground in the Asia-Pacific region, where many of our international clients are based. 

“This complements our existing practice in the region which includes Hong Kong, Singapore, Thai and Vietnamese law capability, as well expanding our existing excellence in-sector in EMEA and the US. 

“I’m delighted to welcome Robert, Lada and the team to the firm.”

WFW Global Real Estate Sector Head, Felicity Jones, added: “The addition of Robert and Lada and their team is an exciting and timely opportunity which ensures that WFW’s Hotel and Hospitality team is even better placed to support its international client base across the globe as the industry deals with disruption to the existing models and risk stack, resolves current issues and moves to restructuring and M&A opportunities.

“We look forward to developing with them the exciting new dimension their Asia-Pacific expertise brings to our global offering,” she said.

WFW’s Hotels & Leisure practice is recognised for its excellence by leading legal directory Legal 500 UK 2021, which reported clients as saying that ‘the team spirit at WFW is one of the best in industry as it combines integrity, deep knowledge of the legal and commercial matters and very good spirit among the team players’.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management