Legal Business Blogs

DLA Piper the star attraction as Merlin GC Jowett opts for sole supplier deal

Merlin Entertainments has appointed DLA Piper as its primary supplier for global construction as well as UK commercial, property and HR work, Legal Business can reveal.

General counsel Matt Jowett, who took over from Merlin’s longstanding group legal director and company secretary Colin Armstrong last year, has agreed a primary supply retainer arrangement with DLA from the beginning of this month, but will continue to work with other firms in the UK on non-retainer work or work where DLA is conflicted. The account will be managed by corporate partner and client relationship partner for Merlin, Rob Salter.

Speaking to Legal Business, Jowett said that Merlin, which owns visitor attractions such as Alton Towers, Legoland and Madame Tussauds, decided on a sole supplier mandate because of the efficiencies and economies of scale that can be gained from such a relationship. The company also uses a number of local firms around the world for day-to-day work.

He added: ‘We chose DLA as the primary relationship for all of our UK commercial and global construction work because of their experience and also critically their proposed delivery of legal services through best use of IT which is well suited to the high volume of legal work in our business.’

Legal Business first revealed last August that Jowett was carrying out the company’s first ever review of its external advisers.

Previous regular advisers for the leisure company included Ashurst, Knights, TLT and Fladgate in the UK, with the group turning to Ashurst in 2013 for its £3.3bn initial public offering. Corporate partner Mark Sperotto, who is now at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, led on the transaction alongside capital markets partners Jonathan Parry, who recently left Ashurst for White & Case, and Nicholas Holmes.

In addition, Merlin turned to Kennedys last year for advice after its Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers crashed, leaving 16 people with injuries.

Jowett was previously general counsel and company secretary at packing company DS Smith, and before that had headed the legal team at VT Group.

DLA is currently the principal legal adviser for the UK arm of Heineken in a three year appointment which began in January 2015. The deal sees DLA acting for the global beer and cider producer across a broad range of legal work in the UK, including property, litigation, IP, corporate and employment law.

Read more in: ‘A buyers’ market – The trends and traumas in adviser reviews’