Legal Business

Kirkland, Paul Weiss and Slaughters lead on £3.5bn Royal Mail takeover bid

Kirkland & Ellis, Paul Weiss and Slaughter and May are advising on the proposed takeover of the Royal Mail’s parent company, International Distributions Service (IDS), by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. 

The deal is a revised non-binding proposal from EP Corporate Group for the remaining share capital of IDS which is not already owned by EP, which at present, holds 27.6% of IDS’s issued share capital.  

The proposal values the entire issued share capital of IDS at approximately £3.5bn.  

EP is being advised by Kirkland, with a team led by corporate partners David Higgins, Dipak Bhundia and Jiri Peterka, alongside antitrust & competition partner Matthew Sinclair-Thomson. 

Paul Weiss is also advising EP, handling financing and structuring aspects of the bid, with finance duo Neel Sachdev and Stefan Arnold-Soulby, leading the firm’s team.

Slaughters corporate duo Richard Smith and Claire Jackson are advising IDS’s management.  

In an announcement to the London Stock Exchange, IDS chair Keith Williams said: ‘The Board is minded to recommend this offer price, which it considers to be fair and reflects the value of GLS’ current growth plans and the progress being made on change at Royal Mail to adapt the business to a significant fall in the demand for letters and growth in parcels.  

‘It is however regrettable that despite four years of asking, the Government has not seen fit to engage in reform of the Universal Service and thus improve our financial position and ensure that Royal Mail could provide an economically sustainable service to the British public.’

Legal Business

Promotions dip at Slaughters as firm makes up five new partners

Slaughter and May has made up five new partners in its latest round of promotions, a 50% drop from last year’s round of ten.

Four of the new partners are based in London, with the final addition in Brussels.

In London, disputes and investigations associate Ross Francis-Pike, private equity associate Aleezeh Liaqat (pictured, left), financial institutions senior counsel Tom Peacock and competition senior counsel Tina Zhuo (pictured, right) will all join the partnership on 1 May.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, competition lawyer Alexander Chadd has been promoted to partner from senior counsel.

Standout mandates for Chadd include advising Elanco on its acquisition of Bayer’s Animal Health business, and advising Ball Corporation, on its acquisition of Rexam. Liaqat’s recent work includes advising Corsair Capital on the acquisition of a majority stake in MJM Holdings. Peacock previously advised Tata Steel on £7.5bn worth of derisking, as well as advising RSA Group on a £6.5bn derisking of two of RSA’s main defined pension schemes with PIC. Meanwhile, Zhuo has advised Google on several investigations and market studies and advised John Wood Group on its acquisition of Amec Foster Wheeler.

The promotions are in line with diversity and inclusion targets set out by Slaughters in 2021, in which the firm committed to its global equity partner promotions being 40% female by 2027, with at least 15% of London and Brussels promotions between 2020 and 2025 to come from ethnic minority backgrounds.

This year’s cohort is 40% female, with the same percentage coming from an ethnic minority background.

Steve Cooke, Slaughter and May senior partner said: ‘I am very pleased to announce the election of five new partners. Each will make a valued contribution to their respective practice area and to the continued success of the firm.’

The promotions take Slaughters to 106 partners worldwide.

Legal Business

Slaughters’ outgoing senior partner Cooke to follow fellow grandees in post-retirement pivot

Slaughter and May’s eminent senior partner Steve Cooke has become the latest law firm leader to embrace a change of direction post-retirement with the news that he is to join PR agency Brunswick Group.

Cooke (pictured) will finish his term as Slaughters’ senior partner on 30 April 2024 after which he will join Brunswick as a partner, tasked with advising clients on matters including M&A, crisis, disputes and litigation.

Cooke will join John Davies, previously a partner in Freshfields’ antitrust, competition and trade group, who moved to Brunswick in 2019 as a senior adviser. Senior lawyers pivoting their careers has become something of a trend in recent years, accelerated by the pandemic. In 2021, Charlie Jacobs, Linklaters’ former senior partner moved to JP Morgan as its co-head of investment banking in 2021. His colleague Sarah Wiggins, formerly Linklaters’ London corporate head, also made the move to banking, joining HSBC as vice chair for global banking in 2022.

Also in 2022, Gideon Moore, Linklaters’ erstwhile global managing partner, became chief legal officer and general counsel of NatWest, as well as taking on a non-executive director role at new law scale-up, nexa.

For its part, M&G plc in February 2022 announced that Edward Braham, Freshfields’ former senior partner, was to join the listed UK investment manager as its chair on 14 March 2022.

Elsewhere, former executive chairman of Freshfields William Lawes, joined financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard as a managing director in 2017, while former Clifford Chance managing partner Matthew Layton joined FTI Consulting in January 2023 as a senior adviser.

The succession of Cooke on 1 May 2024 by Roland Turnill, head of the firm’s M&A practice and co-head of the financial institutions group, was announced in September 2021, an unusually long lead-in time for a City stalwart.

Cooke said in a statement: ‘I have worked closely with Brunswick since its inception on a range of matters and have always been impressed by the breadth and depth of the firm’s expertise on issues that really matter to clients.

‘I am excited to join at a time when the firm is growing strongly and enhancing its capabilities – and the value it delivers to clients – all the time. I look forward to working with Brunswick colleagues and clients in the UK and globally,’ he added.

Cooke joined Slaughter and May as a trainee in 1982, becoming a partner in 1991. He was appointed as senior partner in 2016, having headed the firm’s M&A practice from 2001 to 2016.

His client book includes FTSE 100 clients such as Aviva, Barratt Developments, BAT, Centrica, Diageo, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, International Airlines Group, Reckitt Benckiser, Rolls-Royce and WPP. He is also a non-executive director of Young & Co’s Brewery and will become its chair in July 2024.

Slaughter and May managing partner Deborah Finkler said: ‘We have worked successfully alongside Brunswick for many years, and this is a great opportunity for Steve. We look forward to continuing to work with Brunswick and with Steve when he takes up his new role next year.’

Neal Wolin, chief executive officer at Brunswick said: ‘Steve is a truly world-class adviser and an outstanding addition to our firm. His clients have turned to him for many years for deep expertise and trusted counsel. He brings to Brunswick unrivalled experience in M&A and a broader set of critical issues facing companies globally. I am delighted he is joining the firm, where he will add meaningful value to the leaders of our clients around the world.’ 

Legal Business

‘Holding ourselves accountable’: Slaughter and May tackles social mobility challenge with 2033 targets

Slaughter and May has stuck its head above the parapet on the thorny issue of social mobility, outlining ambitious targets for 2033, in what will be seen as a bold move at the elite end of the profession.

Over the next decade the firm aims to increase its representation of individuals from a lower socio-economic background (LSEB) by 25% across its total workforce population from a baseline of 18.8%. Broken down across fee earners and business services professionals, Slaughters intends to increase its lawyer population from such backgrounds to 15% from a baseline of 10% and its business services population to 40% from a baseline of 34.7%. These targets measure a person’s socio-economic background by using parental occupation at the age of 14 as a metric.

Slaughters partnered with the not-for-profit, social equality consultancy the Bridge Group to carry out a workforce analysis on setting its targets. The Bridge Group found that progression, retention and performance of lawyers from a lower social background at the firm was the same as lawyers from other socio-economic backgrounds. It also found that in the firm’s business services roles the LSEB population stood at 34.7%. The national census figure for LSEB individuals is 39%. These findings were used to inform the firm’s action plan, which places a particular emphasis on widening access throughout its early stage recruitment processes.

The action plan has three strands. Firstly, Slaughters aims to increase the number of LSEB individuals it hires through graduate and business services recruitment. Steps will include targeted recruitment activity aimed at engaging students who might not participate in its traditional recruitment processes, as well as providing apprenticeships as an alternative route into the firm.

Secondly, the firm plans to increase its work on widening access to the profession. Over the next five years, Slaughters will extend its scholarship scheme and introduce a new financial bursary scheme for 17–18-year-olds.

Thirdly, the firm will double down on its workforce data relating to social mobility. It will encourage employees to disclose diversity data, with a target of 90% disclosure. The firm will also voluntarily publish social mobility related pay gaps through its annual pay gap reporting.

Commenting on the targets, Andrew Jolly, corporate partner and chair of Slaughters’ social mobility working group, said: ‘Our detailed work with the Bridge Group shows that when LSEB lawyers come to Slaughter and May their progression is strong and they are just as likely as their peers from other socio-economic backgrounds to succeed in the firm. The targets and actions we have announced focus on ensuring this continues to be the case as well as making the firm an attractive place to work for people from a wide range of backgrounds.’

Deborah Finkler (pictured), managing partner at Slaughters, added: ‘Tracking the socio-economic make up of our workforce over a long period of time means that we have confidence in the data we are using to set these public targets and measure our progress. This focus and transparency means we can hold ourselves accountable and sends a clear message about our intentions to enhance and maintain a diverse workforce.’

Legal Business

Global 100: Slaughter and May – Keeping the magic alive

‘It’s a remarkable firm with a tremendous reputation, but it has to take note of the fact that the market is changing.’ So says one transatlantic law firm leader, summarising a view that has chimed throughout Legal Business’ numerous Global 100 interviews.

Arguably the most conservative of the City elite, Slaughter and May has long won plaudits for steadfastness, staying true to its London heartland of advising FTSE 100 and 350 clients, even as peers struck out to follow transatlantic ambitions. As the pace of change in the market amid globalisation and intense competition reaches giddying speeds, many commentators question whether the stalwart’s approach is underpinned by justified confidence or hubris.

Legal Business

Life During Law: Jeff Twentyman

I acquired through reading an interest in justice and the role law could play. One book I read in my late teens was influential. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by American journalist and author Peter Matthiessen. Written in 1983 about an individual who was part of the American Indian Movement called Leonard Peltier. He happens to still be in jail 45 years later, in what this book would tell you was a major miscarriage of justice. It profoundly affected me. The idea that law could be a force for good attracted me to the legal system.

I was predisposed to arguing. I found it interesting to pursue the right answer through discussing it with people. Constructive arguing rather than arguing in a teenager-y sort of way. I made the connection that actually the two things played into each other. I was possibly a little bit idealistic.

Legal Business

Deals Yearbook 2022: Sally Wokes, Slaughter and May – partner since 2015

Why did you decide to become an M&A lawyer? Was there anyone in particular who inspired you early on in your career?
I unexpectedly fell in love with it in my first seat at the firm. It was the boom before the bust of 2005, and I found the pace and energy of what was happening in the group a huge draw. Ancillary to that, I have to say Melissa Fogarty, who was my first supervisor, and who has now gone on to be the co-head of London corporate at Clifford Chance.

Legal Business

Slaughters galvanises succession to name Finkler and Turnill its next generation leaders

In an unusual display of forward planning for a City leader, Slaughter and May has already earmarked Roland Turnill (pictured) to succeed Steve Cooke as senior partner when he steps down from the role on 1 May 2024.

The announcement today (28 September) came within a week of the news that respected litigator Deborah Finkler had been elected as Slaughters’ first managing partner as of 1 May 2022, following the planned retirement of practice partner David Wittmann and executive partner Paul Stacey.

These recent elections follow a June disclosure detailing the rationale for a change in structure of the executive function at the firm, in which the managing partner will assume the functions of the practice partner along with the strategic elements of the executive partner’s role. Meanwhile, a chief operating officer role is also being created to take on the managerial and operational aspects of the executive partner’s role.

Deal stalwart Turnill joined Slaughters in 1996 and became a partner in 2004. He currently heads up the firm’s M&A practice and is also co-head of its financial institutions group. A member of the partnership board since 2016, his listed client roster boasts Vodafone, Royal Dutch Shell and Prudential. He will continue in full-time practice until a transition period starts in early 2024.

The highly-regarded M&A specialist Cooke was first elected as the City institution’s senior partner in 2016 for a five-year term and in 2019 had his term extended for another three years to 2024.

Cooke said of the move: ‘The energy and drive [Turnill] brings to his client relationships and the excellent job that he is doing currently as head of M&A and FIG co-head mean he will bring a wealth of experience when he steps into the senior partner role in 2024. The decision to appoint the next senior partner well ahead of time is consistent with our approach of long-term decision making as we bring in a new management structure over the coming months.’

Finkler, a leading light in banking and commercial litigation and regulatory investigation whose clients include Santander, JP Morgan and WPP, joined the firm in 1986 and became a partner in 1991. She will be instrumental in the appointment of the new COO and will continue fee-earning until early 2022.

Cooke said of Finkler’s election: ‘Her reputation as a practitioner is outstanding and she combines this experience with great knowledge of the firm from her time as head of our disputes and investigations group and as a previous member of the partnership board. These were roles to which she brought great drive and integrity and make her ideally equipped to be the firm’s first managing partner.’

Finkler commented: The creation of the managing partner role marks a significant change for the firm. It is an exciting challenge for me, and I am grateful for the support of my partners as I step up. I am looking forward to shaping the role of and hiring the COO over the coming months, but my focus will remain on fee-earning work until I begin a handover period with David and Paul early next year.’

Legal Business

‘Leading-edge experience’ – Slaughter and May looks in-house to make rare City disputes partner hire

Slaughter and May has made a rare City hire, the firm announced today (19 November), recruiting a partner into its disputes and investigations practice from in-house.

Gayathri Kamalanathan is currently head of group litigation and enforcement at Danske Bank in Copenhagen, having been at the bank for almost two years, but is now set to join Slaughters in April. Prior to joining Dankse Bank, Kamalanathan had an eight-year spell at Deutsche Bank where she served as managing director UK head of litigation and enforcement and spent nine years at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer where she was a senior associate.

Richard Swallow, head of Slaughters’ disputes and investigations group, commented: ‘Gayathri is an absolutely fantastic hire for us at a time when we are growing our team and securing some significant victories for clients. Her decade of leading-edge experience in senior in-house roles has given her deep knowledge of complex litigation and global regulatory and criminal enforcement action. All the partners are immensely excited to add Gayathri to our team.’

Such recruitment is rare for Slaughters, especially in the City. However, in 2018 the firm made a major hire into its investigations practice, luring former Serious Fraud Office director Sir David Green QC as a consultant . The firm has also made partner hires into its Hong Kong office in recent years.

Steve Cooke, senior partner, added: ‘Gayathri’s appointment marks another significant point in the continued growth of the contentious side of our practice. The global impact of Covid-19 is widely predicted to include a sharp increase in litigation and investigations and the addition of Gayathri to our market-leading team gives us a great platform to support clients turning to us when their commercial and reputational interests are at stake.’

In less welcome news, the firm confirmed yesterday (18 November) that a partner had left the firm following an internal probe, with the Solicitors Regulation Authority notified of the matter.

Legal Business

‘We expect the highest standards of behaviour’: Finance partner leaves Slaughter and May following investigation

A partner has left Slaughter and May following an internal investigation, the firm has confirmed today (18 November). Finance partner Oliver Storey has retired from the firm’s partnership with immediate effect, with Slaughters notifying the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) of the matter.

Senior partner, Steve Cooke, said in a statement: ‘Following an internal investigation, Oliver Storey has retired from the partnership with immediate effect. The SRA has been notified and we will not be commenting further at this time.

‘We expect the highest standards of behaviour from all our partners and staff. If these standards are called into question, we will not hesitate to investigate promptly and take whatever action is required.’

Storey first joined the Magic Circle firm in 2006 and was made partner ten years later. His departure from Slaughters is the latest exit of a partner from an elite firm following an internal investigation. In December last year, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Nicholas Williams left the firm following such an investigation, while in March of this year Tom Snelling also departed the firm, again following an internal investigation.