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Deal watch: Magic Circle gets clean bill to lead on $13bn GSK healthcare takeover as Addleshaw ties up JD Sports US acquisition

Magic Circle firms Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May have rejuvenated longstanding client relationships to win lead roles on Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis’ $13bn sale to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of its minority stake in their consumer healthcare joint venture.

The deal, announced on today (27 March), sees London-listed GSK buy the 36.5% stake in the joint venture it didn’t already own from Novartis to assume full control of the business.

The joint venture was forged in 2014 amid an asset swap between the two pharma heavyweights which saw them combine their respective consumer healthcare arms.

Freshfields corporate partner Julian Long led on that transaction for Novartis and is now co-leading on this latest deal with Jennifer Bethlehem. Also in the team are tax partner Paul Davison and antitrust partner Rod Carlton, who also advised on the 2014 asset swap.

Slaughters is advising GSK on the buyout, with a team led by partners David Johnson and Simon Nicholls, both of whom represented client on the formation of the joint venture.

Financing partners Guy O’Keefe and Oliver Storey also worked on this latest deal, as well as tax partner Dominic Robertson and competition partners Bertrand Louveaux and Jordan Ellison.

GSK’s internal legal team was led by Chip Cale and Antony Braithwaite.

GSK is planning to launch a strategic review of its Horlicks drink brand and other consumer nutrition products with a view to raise cash for the acquisition, the company said in a statement. The review will also include GSK’s Indian subsidiary, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, Addleshaw Goddard is advising UK high street sports shoe retailer JD Sports Fashion on its $558m acquisition of US counterpart The Finish Line.

Addleshaw’s Manchester-based team was led by partner Roger Hart and included partner Martin O’Shea.

Indianapolis-headquartered Finish Line is listed on Nasdaq with a market capitalisation of roughly $425m. Hughes Hubbard & Reed and Taft Stettinius & Hollister advised JD Sports on US law, while Faegre Baker Daniels advised Finish Line’s board of directors.

Elsewhere Travers Smith has leveraged the recent trend for investment in payment services businesses to advise longstanding private equity client Equistone Partners Europe on its acquisition of UK-headquartered Small World Financial Services for a reported £80m.

The Travers Smith team was led by private equity partner James Renahan and included tax partner Jessica Kemp and regulatory partner Stephanie Biggs.

Sellers FPE Capital, MMC Ventures and the existing Small World management team were advised by Charles Russell Speechlys. Equistone made the investment via its sixth fund, Equistone Partners Europe Fund VI. Cross-border payment service provider Small World employs around 680 people across 16 countries and generates revenues in excess of £110m.