Legal Business

Dealwatch: Freshfields and Arthur Cox line up on Paddy Power and Betfair’s merger


Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Arthur Cox have taken the lead roles today (26 August) as Paddy Power and Betfair announced they had agreed a possible merger in a £5bn deal.

A Freshfields team led by Edward Braham and Oliver Lazenby for Betfair having previously worked with the gaming company’s initial public offering and on a takeover approach in 2013 by CVC which was fought off. Freshfields also fielded employment partner Jocelyn Mitchell with Simon Priddis covering antitrust and Tax advice coming from Peter Clements.

Paddy Power also turned to its longstanding adviser Arthur Cox on the deal. Corporate partner Maura McLaughlin led the team at the Irish firm while Allen & Overy’s Antonio Bavasso provided antitrust advice.

If carried through, the combined company will have revenues of around £1.1bn and will seek to keep both Betfair and Paddy Power brands running. Shareholders of Paddy Power will hold 52% of the new company and receive a special dividend totalling €80m while Betfair shareholders will split the remaining 48% stake.

The gaming sector has seen a series of high-profile deals over the summer including Ladbrokes £2.3bn merger with Gala Coral, which saw Slaughter and May and Ashurst win roles, and the bidding battle between 888 and GVC over Freshfields-client Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment.

Legal Business

Sending the ‘right message’: Arthur Cox sees donations rejected by Irish Cancer Society due to client


A leading charity has decided it will no longer accept corporate donations from Big Five Irish law firm Arthur Cox as the firm is currently acting for tobacco giant Japan Tobacco in a dispute against the Irish government.

Arthur Cox is at present representing Japan Tobacco Ireland in a legal action against pending legislation for the plain packaging of cigarettes. The Irish Cancer Society said it is ‘currently undertaking a review of professional service providers who may have a conflict with the Society’s mission, which is to achieve a future without cancer’ and that ‘because Arthur Cox are now leading a legal action, which has the clear aim of preventing the enactment of this legislation, we will therefore now decline any offer of a corporate donation from Arthur Cox.’

A spokesperson added: ‘Where the current work of a professional service provider has the clear aim of preventing the enactment of legislation which we consider crucial to the prevention of cancer, we would now decline any offer of a corporate donation.’

The charity said it received €20,000 in both 2013 and 2014 from the firm, which also serves as a legal adviser to the government’s Health Service Executive. Minister for Children James Reilly recently told Ireland’s national press that he has a ‘problem’ with Arthur Cox continuing to provide legal advice to the State agency whilst representing tobacco firms. ‘

‘I am very concerned about a perceived or real conflict of interest here of legal firms representing both sides in a hugely high stakes situation like this…I fail to see how we send the right message by employing legal firms that are prepared to represent the tobacco industry.’

With the Bill currently being piloted through the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament, Ireland will constitute the first member state of the European Union to bring in plain packaging on cigarettes. A second cigarette manufacturer, Imperial Tobacco Group, last week threatened legal action too against the government if Ireland proceeded with the legalisation.

Arthur Cox did not respond to requests for comment.

Legal Business

Ireland: Tracking Dublin’s Young Tigers


Ireland is breathing a little easier again. With more than five years of economic turbulence battering both businesses and reputations, the nation has finally managed to hoist itself out of recession. Having officially exited its €67.5bn bailout programme in December 2013 – a move described by finance minister Michael Noonan as Ireland being ‘handed back her purse’ – this summer also saw the Central Statistics Office announce economic growth of 2.7% for the first quarter of 2014.

While the situation is still deemed perilous in many parts, with a mammoth public deficit, a woeful property market and high unemployment, a sense of confidence is returning to Ireland’s legal elite. And such is the battle-hardened resilience of the young lawyers that made partner around the time the economy crumbled – including those at Arthur Cox, McCann FitzGerald, A&L Goodbody, William Fry, Matheson and others – that a crop of up-and-coming individuals are emerging as the next generation of stars to define Ireland’s legal market in the years ahead.

Legal Business

Ireland’s lucky number seven: Irish Treasury appoints septuplet of firms to its legal panel


Thanks to the economic turbulence that has plagued the Irish nation since 2008, Dublin’s largest firms continue to collect hefty recession related work post financial crisis, including most recently an appointment to advise the government’s asset and liabilities manager, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

The NTMA, which is responsible for borrowing on behalf of the Irish government and managing the national debt, has appointed Dublin-based Big Five firms A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, William Fry, McCann FitzGerald and Matheson to its general legal services panel alongside Mason Hayes & Curran and offshore funds giant Maples and Calder.

In recent years advising on Ireland’s debt has been particularly lucrative. Traditionally, Arthur Cox has been recognised as the state’s go-to firm, having led on many of Ireland’s headline bank restructuring deals, including the NTMA’s transfer of €15.8bn of deposits and assets from Irish Nationwide Building Society to Irish Life & Permanent, and from the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank to Allied Irish Banks (€12.2bn).

However, this latest panel announcement comes as the government is under serious public scrutiny over legal fees, particularly in relation to its controversial bank guarantee scheme, which has landed the Irish tax-payer with over €64bn of debt.

Following a parliamentary question published in mid-July, finance minister Michael Noonan revealed that since 2011 the government has paid Arthur Cox around €5m for advice on the scheme including fees this year so far of €981,012.

Noonan also revealed that the state has paid out more than €960,000 to Matheson since last year – a sum it says was for ‘advice on transactions undertaken by the Minister in relation to Irish Life.’

See the September issue of Legal Business for an extensive insight into Ireland’s legal market

Legal Business

Eurozone debt: Keeping it together


As the sovereign debt crisis threatens to bring the euro to its knees, a group of lawyers has been working behind the scenes to keep the cogs turning. LB finds out what happened backstage.

Lee Buchheit has faced a frantic few months. He has been advising the Greek government on how to sort out its massive debt problem. This has seen him shuttle between meetings across Europe for the past five months and spend more time in hotel rooms in Paris, Brussels, Berlin and London than in his hometown of New York.