Legal Business

Heathrow Airport Holdings

  • General counsel: Carol Hui.
  • Team headcount: 16 lawyers.

Considered as much a business adviser as a legal one, Heathrow Airport Holdings GC Carol Hui is praised for her team’s ‘clear strategic focus’ and for navigating the company through complex transactional and regulatory issues, while reducing reliance on external legal support.

Since being taken private in a consortium led by Spain’s Ferrovial in a £10.3bn deal in 2006, the company has been enmeshed in sustained controversy regarding UK airport expansion, which has led to a prolonged legal tussle with competition authorities. Hui has been heavily involved with Heathrow’s bid to gain support for a third runway, a plan which would raise its capacity from 480,000 flights a year to a projected estimate of 740,000.

Former Slaughter and May lawyer Hui has also pushed through a substantive upgrade of a legal team that was underweight and historically focused on handling relatively low-level property matters. The team now includes recommended counsel Catherine Ledger, head of legal for operations, corporate and litigation, and Irina Janakievska, senior counsel for corporate and finance, who formed part of Hui’s team in the October 2014 sale of Aberdeen International Airport, Glasgow Airport and Southampton Airport to a consortium formed by Ferrovial and Macquarie Group for £1.05bn.

Prior to Hui’s arrival, BAA did not have a formalised roster of advisers. Having revamped the department within months, Hui effectively reduced reliance on external lawyers and keeps as much as 70% of work in-house. Cost-effective initiatives introduced for panel firms include volume rebates, while Hui has also managed to resource the department with six trainees, who are all provided by advisers. She further built up the legal function to include commercial, litigation, regulation and compliance support capabilities, demonstrating her ability to run a small team with wide responsibility, despite the regulatory complexities and multibillion-pound revenue of the company.