Legal Business

Dealwatch: US and UK outfits line up on Jack Wills sale, BT fleet group buy-out and Majestic Wine

Dealwatch: US and UK outfits line up on Jack Wills sale, BT fleet group buy-out and Majestic Wine

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, RPC, Mayer Brown and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner were among the firms to enjoy a pre-summer deal rush this week as Sports Direct bought Jack Wills and private equity player Aurelius acquired BT’s fleet business.

Fried Frank advised high street clothing retailer Jack Wills on the buy-out of its UK businesses with a team led by restructuring and insolvency partner Ashley Katz and including corporate partner Dan Oates, finance partner Neil Caddy, real estate partner Patrick Williams and restructuring and insolvency partner Gary Kaplan.

The deal was the result of a restructuring and pre-packaged administration after Jack Wills fell into administration on Monday (August 5) and a team of KPMG administrators led by partners Will Wright and Chris Pole was appointed.

The £12.75m acquisition by Sports Direct includes acquiring stock, a distribution centre and 100 stores across the UK and Ireland. Owner Mike Ashley agreed to the takeover after winning the bid against Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group owner Philip Day. Last year House of Fraser was acquired in a similar pre-packaged administration deal by Sports Direct for £90m when it out-bid Philip Day.

Sports Direct is a long-standing client of RPC which advised on the takeover.

A Mayer Brown team led by Perry Yam advised Aurelius Equity Opportunities, the equity investment entity of Aurelius Group, on the acquisition of commercial fleet management operator BT Fleet Solutions from BT Group Plc.

Mayer Brown and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner worked on the transitional arrangements which will ensure that the carve-out from BT is successful, as well as the long-term outsourcing agreement between BT Group and BT Fleet Solutions. BT Fleet Solutions will continue to manage BT’s vehicle fleet nationally after the acquisition.

Co-leader of the global corporate & securities practice and private equity partner Perry Yam told Legal Business, ‘It’s an exciting opportunity for Auerelius to take on a non-core asset from BT and to retain BT as a customer.’

The BCLP team led by BT relationship partner Marcus Pearl and M&A partner Ben Lee advised BT Group.

Pearl, told Legal Business: ‘BT is seeking to focus more and more on investing in the best fixed and mobile networks in the UK and therefore the divestment of this non-core part of BT Group is very much part of its ongoing commitment to the core of its strategy.’

BCLP is a prominent member of BT’s panel and advises both BT and Openreach on strategic M&A, outsourcing, regulatory investigations and litigation and competition matters.

Meanwhile Allen & Overy and Hogan Lovells advised as Majestic Wine Plc agreed to sell its retail and commercial businesses to investment manager Fortress Investment Group.

The deal will see Fortress, which is owned by SoftBank, pay £95m for the businesses, which will continue to trade under the Majestic name.  The deal is subject to European Commission antitrust clearance and Majestic shareholder approval. It is part of Majestic’s plan to focus on driving growth in its Naked Wines business.

The A&O team was led by corporate M&A partner Seth Jones with partners Alasdair Balfour and Nigel Parker advising on antitrust and commercial matters respectively. Tom Whelan, Hogan Lovells’ global head of private equity, advised Fortress on the deal.

Corporate partner Seth Jones told Legal Business ‘It’s a sector that is seeing rapidly changing consumer behaviour which is driving some of the deal activity we are seeing. 2019 has also seen an increase in private equity capital being deployed both in private M&A but also public takeovers.  We’ve really seen private equity go after UK listed companies and deploy the capital that they’ve raised over the last few years and that’s really the stand-out trend for the first half of the year in the UK.’

Finally, Shoomiths is advising Malvern Group administrators KPMG following the announcement of the Group’s collapse last week (July 31). The corporate restructuring and advisory team is led by partner Sarah Teal and headed up nationally by James Keates. Malvern Group owns holiday brands Late Rooms and Super Break.

Legal Business

‘Going gangbusters’: Freshfields’ woes continue as corporate partner Qureshi joins Fried Frank

‘Going gangbusters’: Freshfields’ woes continue as corporate partner Qureshi joins Fried Frank

A further exit from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s City bench has seen corporate and capital markets partner Ashar Qureshi join the London offices of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.

The move sees the well-respected Qureshi leave the Magic Circle firm after four years as a partner in its global transactions practice.  The US securities veteran was seen as a significant string to the bow of Freshfields’ US-qualified offering when he joined in 2014.

At Fried Frank, Qureshi will head the EMEA global transactions team in a move designed to bolster the firm’s cross-border transactional capability. His focus will be on international corporate transactions, including capital markets, M&A and corporate finance.

Qureshi is well-versed in acting for financial institutions, corporates and governments on IPOs, equity and debt securities, including high-yield, as well as hedge fund and private equity transactions and structures, rights offerings restructurings and privatisations.

Mark Mifsud, managing partner of Fried Frank’s London office, told Legal Business: ‘Ashar is an extremely talented lawyer with ambidextrous skills spanning transactions and capital markets. His hire allows us to provide bandwidth and flexibility to the corporate practice, which is going gangbusters at the moment.

Mifsud added: ‘We consider ourselves best in breed for asset management advisory and want to achieve the same thing with capital markets and transactional. We have more irons in the fire – more hires are anticipated – so watch this space.’

Before Freshfields, Qureshi worked in several client-side roles, as a director at Hanson Asset Management, founding partner of NAYA Capital, and executive vice chairman and CEO of Renaissance Group and Renaissance Asset Managers, respectively.

He was also a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton for more than a decade, with a total of 20 years under his belt at the Wall Street firm.

Freshfields has in recent months become no stranger to highly-regarded partner exits. Earlier this month, Freshfields-bred Reza Mohtashami QC quit after 19 years to pursue a career at litigation boutique Three Crowns.

Another high-profile departure for the City giant saw high-yield heavyweight Ward McKimm exit after three years to re-join his old firm, Shearman & Sterling, in July. The move came not seven months after buyout star David Higgins exited for Kirkland & Ellis, despite the Magic Circle firm overhauling its partnership model in a bid to keep its top performers.

The firm also in June lost veteran corporate partner Martin Nelson-Jones, who had been at the firm since 1991, to DLA Piper in London.

For its part, Fried Frank hired corporate real estate partners Darren Rogers and Patrick Williams from Ashurst last year and more recently in July, Sam Wilson from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for its asset management practice.

Legal Business

Ex-KWM real estate duo exits Ashurst for Fried Frank after one year

Ex-KWM real estate duo exits Ashurst for Fried Frank after one year

Real estate duo Darren Rogers and Patrick Williams has resigned from Ashurst to join Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson’s London office just over a year after joining the City firm from King & Wood Mallesons (KWM).

Rogers was made up to partner at legacy SJ Berwin in 2010, where he started as an associate 16 years ago. Ashurst announced he was set to join the real estate team as a partner in April last year together with Williams, who was promoted to partner in 2015 when KWM made up only two London lawyers as part of a 36-strong round.

The pair counts British Land as a longstanding client, alongside Invesco Real Estate, CBRE Global Investors and Battersea Power Station Development Company among others.

The hire is the first Fried Frank’s London office has made for over a year, with the US firm bringing in Mayer Brown co-head of restructuring Ashley Katz in February 2016.

Fried Frank’s corporate real estate co-head Fiona Kelly said Rogers and Williams ‘have a strong reputation, both within the UK and internationally, for providing preeminent counsel in this sector.’

She added that the duo’s broad experience in commercial real estate law and corporate law would add strength to the firm’s clients ‘in all facets of high value commercial real estate investment’.

An Ashurst spokesperson said the real estate group, which has 21 London based partners, will continue to focus on high end work: ‘We do not anticipate these departures as having any significant impact on the real estate practice and they are likely to increase our profitability.’

Earlier this June, Ashurst lost a four-partner team from its Paris arm to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which came just four months after it emerged a group of five Ashurst corporate partners in Paris to Freshfields, collectively responsible for a book of business worth £8m.

The firm’s London head of pensions Marcus Fink also departed to PwC earlier this year.

Conversely, in March Ashurst launched a European high-yield offering, bringing in Allen & Overy senior associate Tamer Bahgat, who was made up to partner at Ashurst, and Linklaters counsel Natalia Sokolova.

The firm has also hired Linklaters leveraged finance senior associate Pierre Roux and PwC tax director Emmanuelle Pontnau-Faure in Paris, who will both be made up to partner in the move.

In March, Fried Frank confirmed London managing partner and City veteran Graham White would leave private practice at the end of May. Asset management partner Mark Mifsud stepped into the role following his departure. and


Legal Business

Fried Frank London leadership to move to Mifsud as veteran White retires

Fried Frank London leadership to move to Mifsud as veteran White retires

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson‘s London managing partner Graham White is to retire later this year with asset management partner Mark Mifsud taking up the role of London head.

Private equity veteran White will leave private practice on 31 May. He joined Fried Frank in 2014 from Kirkland & Ellis where he was the US firm’s de facto head in the City – the firm does not maintain an official London managing partner title.

He unofficially took the role at Kirkland in 2012 after joining the firm in 2006 from Magic Circle firm Linklaters where he had been a partner since 2001. Before this, White was a partner at legacy firm SJ Berwin from 1991.

The firm announced White had hired Mifsud from Kirkland in 2015 where he later became a member of Fried Frank’s governance committee. He was also previously at SJ Berwin and Slaughter and May.

In an internal statement sent to partners, chairman David Greenwald said: ‘[White] has provided tremendous leadership as a member of our firm-wide governance committee and to the London office. Under Graham’s leadership, we have made substantial progress in the execution of our strategy to align the practice mix in London with our core US practices.’

‘As you know, we have recently announced record results for FY17, and the London office made a considerable contribution to our overall performance.’

Under White’s watch the London office has brought on seven partners and 31 associates to the office, including in asset management, M&A and private equity, and finance.

The investment was in line with the firm’s overall strategy, which began in early 2015 with its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices winding down, leaving the US firm without an outpost in Asia. This meant the firm could re-focus operations in its core offices, namely London, even if many would argue that a lack of a functional Asian network makes for an awkward narrative in the increasingly globalised City market.

The London revamp saw Mayer Brown co-head of restructuring Ashley Katz join in February 2016, which followed the launch into asset management last year after the firm hired Kirkland’s high-profile funds trio Mifsud, Kate Downey and Alexandra Conroy. The funds move was followed up with the hire of Gregg Beechey from King & Wood Mallesons.

Other recruits included O’Melveny & Myers PE partner Daniel Oates and Hogan Lovells finance partner Stuart Brinkworth, who joined the firm in September 2015.


Legal Business

Fried Frank hires Mayer Brown’s restructuring head to launch City workouts practice


Having launched a trio of practice areas – finance, private equity and funds – in London in just over a year, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson has kick-started 2016 with the launch of a restructuring practice, appointing Mayer Brown‘s co-head of restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency Ashley Katz.

The hire comes as part of the firm’s wider strategy to ‘build out the core practice areas in Europe and support client needs by providing a strong bankruptcy and restructuring capability’, said Fried Frank chairman David Greenwald.

Katz leaves Mayer Brown after eight years having joined in 2008 from Allen & Overy where he was a senior associate. At Mayer Brown, Katz specialised in restructuring, insolvency related matters and distressed investing, and advised banks, borrowers, bondholders, insolvency practitioners, pension trustees and hedge funds. In recent years he advised both ATP Oil & Gas and Nordic Mines on their restructurings, and he acted on the Budapest Airport’s €1.35bn refinancing in 2014.

Fried Frank bankruptcy and restructuring practice Brad Eric Scheler said: ‘[Katz] will be fully integrated into our existing bankruptcy and restructuring team, working with us to deliver valuable counsel to clients who need initial deal structuring advice and assistance with transactions that involve distressed issues. Our current team is excited to collaborate with him as we act for funds and other creditors, as well as clients on the debtor side, on transatlantic assignments.’

The restructuring launch in London follows Fried Frank’s expansion of its asset management practice in Europe last year, which saw the addition of four partners in London – Kirkland’s high-profile funds trio Mark Mifsud, Kate Downey and Alexandra Conroy all resigned in May 2015, while O’Melveny & Myers private equity partner Daniel Oates joined early last year. Former King & Wood Mallesons financial markets partner Gregg Beechey and ex-Hogan Lovells finance partner Stuart Brinkworth also joined the firm in September.




Legal Business

Latest hires boost Fried Frank’s bold City expansion plans under Graham White


Former Kirkland & Ellis de facto London head Graham White has experience in building City practices and almost a year after being recruited by Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson to revive its London offering, the outpost has seen some credible arrivals. But as two more partners officially join in September, White is planning more recruits and a move to larger offices.

White, who joined in October 2014, was tasked to build out three main practice areas – finance, private equity and funds – and then support the expansion of M&A, followed by real estate and restructuring.

Legal Business

KWM loses second City partner this week as Fried Frank takes funds specialist


King & Wood Mallesons‘ (KWM) City office has suffered its second partner exit this week, with financial markets partner Gregg Beechey being the latest to quit the firm to join Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in London.

Beechey has been a partner at SJ Berwin, which merged with King & Wood Mallesons in 2013, since 2000 having spent the majority of his legal career at the UK firm, and under two years at the combined firm. Before SJ Berwin, Beechey was a compliance assistant at asset management company Schroders for two years. He specialises in financial markets, with a particular focus on regulatory issues for fund managers, and comes recommended by The Legal 500 for his work on advising on the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD) matters.

This latest hire for Fried Frank comes after the firm hired Kirkland & Ellis funds partners Mark Mifsud, Kate Downey and Alexandra Conroy in May, after recruiting Hogan Lovells partner Stuart Brinkworth to head its London finance offering.

For KWM, the exit comes after private equity partner Simon Fulbrook left to join Goodwin Procter earlier this week (1 July).

SJ Berwin’s renowned funds practice, particularly private equity, has suffered a number of key departures since the merger. Fulbrook joined former corporate co-head Richard Lever, who left the firm for Goodwin Procter in April to launch its City private equity practice. In May, Paul Hastings hired corporate partner Duncan Woollard to its London office. These followed the departures of a string of senior private equity heavyweights – including Steven Davis who quit to join Proskauer Rose in December 2014; Tim Wright who jumped to DLA Piper in May 2014; and Ed Harris who opted to join Hogan Lovells in October 2013 – all since the SJ Berwin/KWM combination two years ago.

However, KWM did move to rebuild its flagship group this week with the hire of Laura Brunnen from Fried Frank. The firm also recruited a team of Eversheds partners in April, as the firm boosted its capacity to capture hedge fund and investors in the UK’s booming real estate market.

A KWM spokesperson told Legal Business: ‘We can confirm that Gregg Beechey is leaving the firm, we thank him for his contribution and wish him every success for the future.’

Legal Business

KWM seeks to rebuild City private equity practice with Fried Frank hire


After suffering a series of raids on its renowned City private equity practice, including the announced departure of partner Simon Fulbrook earlier today (1 July), King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has sought to rebuild its flagship group with the hire of Laura Brunnen from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.

With senior private equity heavyweights such as Steven Davis, Perry Yam and Richard Lever having deserted SJ Berwin’s renowned practice since its tie-up with KWM in 2013, Brunnen’s arrival will bolster depleting team. Before making partner at Fried Frank, Brunnen had stints as an associate at Kirkland & Ellis and Slaughter and May.

The firm is intent on rebuilding the practice following those exits, with the firm confirming earlier today that Simon Fulbrook will follow Lever to Goodwin Procter, and is seeking to follow up on Brunnen’s arrival with further hires. The firm has added 15 lateral partners in the past 12 months in the City, adding weight to its real estate practice with a string of hires from Eversheds including big-billing partner William Naunton.

William Boss, Europe and Middle East managing partner at King & Wood Mallesons, said: ‘We are continuing to actively pursue our growth agenda which includes strengthening our corporate team. Laura is a significant addition to that practice. Her quality and strength in the private equity area will support both the firm’s existing clients whilst exploiting new client growth opportunities in that market.’

Brunnen added: ‘Clients looking to take advantage of the increased flow of capital require an international firm with deep European and strong international expertise to help them unlock emerging opportunities in growth markets. The reputation of King & Wood Mallesons in those markets, combined with their corporate and private equity strength, perfectly complement and enhance my offering. Joining the firm represents a huge opportunity for me in being part of a dynamic and forward thinking business.~ Knowing I am part of the firm’s strategic plan to grow and develop their corporate practice is incredibly appealing, and I relish the opportunity to help take this vision forward.’

Legal Business

Watson Farley hires Fried Frank London duo to launch structured finance practice


In a ‘strategic play’ to build its debt capital markets offering, Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has hired a pair of finance partners from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson’s City office.

Partners Rob McBride and Sian Withey have joined WFW, against the tide of laterals joining Fried Frank’s London offering, tasked with building a debt securities and structured finance practice.

The pair will look to advise investment banks and other financial institutions as well as clients in energy and infrastructure, maritime, natural resources, transport and real estate practices.

‘The use of wider debt capital markets and structured finance products is becoming more prevalent within the energy, maritime and aviation sectors, making the addition of Rob and Siân a key element of the firm’s plans to access new markets and drive further growth,’ a firm statement said today (10 June).

Both are recommended by The Legal 500 for derivatives and structured products with McBride acknowledged for advising BNP Paribas’ equity financing group while Withey is cited as advising clients including BlueRidge Capital and Merck & Co on new market regulations.

WFW managing partner Chris Lowe said: ‘This is a key strategic play for the firm because we identified debt capital markets as an area where we needed to add strength. The arrival of two partners of Rob and Siân’s background and experience allows us to offer clients across our key sectors a wider range of financing options. It also allows us to develop a broader, self-supporting debt securities, structured finance and derivatives practice.’

Fried Frank has been building its own capabilities in London, and recently hired Kirkland & Ellis funds trio Mark Mifsud, Kate Downey and Alexandra Conroy in May, as well as Hogan Lovells finance partner Stuart Brinkworth, and private equity partner Daniel Oates from O’Melveny & Myers in January.

Legal Business

Déjà vu: Fried Frank hires Kirkland’s Mifsud alongside partner duo to build funds practice


After having led a trio of partners to Kirkland & Ellis from SJ Berwin in 2007 and helping build its funds practice, Mark Mifsud is looking to repeat the trick leaving for Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson with two fellow funds partners as the US firm builds its presence in the City.

Less than a year after the defection of Europe head Graham White, Mifsud, as well as partners Kate Downey and Alexandra Conroy resigned from Kirkland last week. An official start date for the lawyers has yet to be confirmed.

Mifsud, who advises fund managers on structuring and establishing private investment funds, was hired from SJ Berwin in 2007, alongside Downey and Conroy who served as an associate and trainee at the latter firm at the time.

It follows the news last week of Fried Frank’s hire of Hogan Lovells partner Stuart Brinkworth to head its London finance offering. Set to start on 1 September, Brinkworth will be tasked with building debt fund relationships with clients in London and supporting the firm’s private equity practice.

Other strategic hires for the firm’s London office this year included private equity partner Daniel Oates from O’Melveny & Myers in January.