Legal Business Blogs

Two birds, one stone – A&O finance veterans joins Co-op team as GC as firm acts on rescue

Securing a major deal and having one of your partners take a senior role with the same client is a nice trick to pull off but Allen & Overy (A&O) appears to have managed that this week after securing a lead role on the Co-op’s rescue plan and ‘donating’ a veteran partner to the lender’s management team.

A&O today (18 June) confirmed that global financial institutions head Alistair Asher is leaving the law firm to join the Co-operative Bank as its new general counsel.

Asher will advise on the restructuring of the mutually-owned lender and help speed up its management overhaul under its new chief executive Euan Sutherland. Asher will retire from the Magic Circle firm on 1 July after 34 years with A&O and will take on the new role immediately. The veteran partner had previously advised the Co-op on its 2009 merger with Britannia Building Society.

The news comes as A&O this week advised on the lender’s high stakes rescue deal, for which Asher was one of the lead partners.

The Co-op will raise a total of £1.5bn in capital using a ‘bail-in’ process, where its bondholders will exchange £1bn in debt for a minority equity interest in the bank, ahead of its London Stock Exchange listing. Under the deal, £1bn will be contributed this year with the remaining £500m being paid next year.

The bail-in was launched after Co-op disclosed a number of problem loans, leading bank regulators to demand it significantly bolster its capital.

Three A&O partners will lead on the bank’s restructuring and share listings including global restructuring and insolvency managing partner Mark Sterling, corporate finance partner David Broadley and debt capital markets partner Matthew Hartley.

Others advising are A&O’s building societies and mutual head Richard Slynn, partner Etay Katz on regulatory issues, Vimal Tilakapala on tax and Dana Burstow on pensions. Meanwhile, insurance head Philip Jarvis will lead on the announced plan to dispose of the group’s general insurance business.

It is understood that Linklaters has also been instructed to advise on an area of the shake-up, with the firm fielding a team under finance partner David Ereira. The firm declined to comment.

Sterling said: ‘In a major corporate deal which involves new equity, new debt and new regulation, you need a full team on board with around three or four partners leading.’

Nice work to have in a turbulent market.