Legal Business

DLA splits from SA alliance firm Cliffe Dekker over integration and branding issues


Last month saw DLA Piper and South African firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr end their ten-year formal alliance over integration and branding issues, with the international firm making plans to open a greenfield site in Johannesburg to preserve a presence in the market.

DLA wanted Cliffe Dekker, which carries the DLA branding, to become more closely integrated with the firm. However, the majority of the partnership at Cliffe Dekker felt they would lose too much independence and freedom to operate as a result. At the time the duo said they would continue to maintain a relationship to support existing client relationships and refer clients where appropriate.

Legal Business

DLA Piper ends South African alliance as it eyes Jo’burg launch for first foray into Africa


DLA Piper and its South African affiliate, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, are ending their formal alliance as the international firm looks to strengthen its presence in the country.

The move comes after talks regarding further integration between the two, which have had an alliance since 2005, failed to come to fruition with Cliffe Dekker deciding not to become part of DLA Piper’s sprawling Swiss verein.

Consequently, 200-lawyer Cliffe Dekker, which has previously used the branding DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and was fourth in mergermarket’s African and Middle East M&A league table for 2014, and DLA Piper said in a statement that they ‘concluded that their respective interests and strategies are best delivered separately.’

Instead, DLA is pushing on with plans to establish its own presence in the country that has seen a stream of international firms open offices in recent years. In October 2014, Johannesburg, where the firm is targeting, saw Allen & Overy open an outpost with a seven-strong banking and finance team from local firm Bowman Gilfillan.

Other international firms with a presence in the city include Clyde & Co, which opened in May 2014 with a team hire from Linklaters’ local ally Webber Wentzel; Hogan Lovells, which combined with Routledge Modise in December 2013; and Baker & McKenzie, which launched in May 2012. However, there have been concerns raised that the market is becoming over-lawyered given its recent popularity.

The duo said in a statement that they will maintain a relationship when the ten-year alliance ends at the end of August to support existing client relationships and refer clients where appropriate.

Legal Business

Dealwatch: A&O, Linklaters and Slaughters take lead on Virgin Active sale to South Africa-listed Brait


Magic Circle trio Allen & Overy (A&O), Linklaters and Slaughter and May have taken instructions advising on Virgin Group’s £682m sale of an 80% stake in international health club operator Virgin Active to South African-listed private equity group Brait.

The Linklaters team advised Brait on the deal, which values Virgin Active at £1.3bn, led by private equity partners Alex Woodward and Stuart Boyd, alongside corporate partner Stuart Bedford and tax partner Tim Lowe. Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr took the lead advising Brait on South African law.

A&O advised Virgin Active working with general counsel Ashley Aylmer as well as the fitness chain’s management on Brait’s proposed acquisition. The transaction was led by the firm’s co-head of corporate Andrew Ballheimer, who is the relationship partner for Virgin Active and Virgin Group, and corporate partner Simon Toms. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher advised management shareholders with a team led by Mark Sperotto and Nicholas Aleksander.

Slaughter and May advised current owners Virgin Group and CVC on the sale with corporate partner Mark Zerdin leading a team including tax partner Dominic Robertson, and competition specialist Anna Lyle-Smythe.

The deal is expected to complete over the summer after which Brait will own 80% of Virgin Active with Virgin Group retaining 20% (excluding management). The existing management team will be retained, and will be reinvesting alongside Brait.