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Dealwatch: Linklaters and CC act on New Look sale as South African billionaire Wiese continues UK high street buy-up

Less than 30 days after advising on the £1.3bn purchase of Virgin Active by South African billionaire Christo Wiese’s private equity vehicle Brait, Linklaters‘ rising star Alex Woodward has led on Brait’s £780m deal for a 90% stake in clothing retailer New Look.

Wiese, who made his money from South African retail giant Pepkor, has added New Look to a string of recent investments in the UK high street, which include a stake in Iceland. The deal sees private equity houses Apax Partners and Permira sell-up after 11 years of owning the outfit, and will pass on around £1bn of debt, giving New Look a total enterprise value of £1.9bn.

Clifford Chance corporate partners Amy Mahon and David Pearson, who advised Permira on its €250m purchase of Norwegian drug maker Pharmaq in 2013, advised Apax Partners and Permira.

Partner Danny Blum led a team at Eversheds which advised New Look on employee share plans. Blum said: ‘This was a rollercoaster of a deal which was complicated by the wide employee ownership structure in place at New Look and the speed at which the transaction took place.’

Brait said in a statement that, with New Look already operating more than 800 stores around the globe and holding the second largest market share in the UK womenswear, there are ‘strong growth prospects in France, Germany, Poland and especially China which is a priority market’.

Woodward worked alongside fellow private equity partners Stuart Boyd and Stuart Bedford, who also heads the firm’s London corporate team, in executing the deal. The Magic Circle firm is building a strong relationship with Brait as it focuses its investment on the UK market, having also advised the company on its purchase of feminine hygiene brand Lil-Lets in 2013.

The remaining 10% of New Look will be owned by the family of Tom Singh, who founded the business in 1969, and other senior management. UK corporate boutique Macfarlanes advised the Singh family led by corporate M&A partner Harry Coghill, while Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson advised the management.