Legal Business

Westfield Shoppingtowns

  • General counsel: Leon Shelley.
  • Team headcount: 14 lawyers.

Described by the global head of real estate at one top-15 firm as being a ‘hands on, proactive team, close to all the issues with a no-nonsense, commercial, can-do approach’, Westfield’s is a tightly-managed team, with GC Leon Shelley also described as a ‘total star’.>

The legal team undertakes most of the shopping centre giant’s legal work internally. Westfield’s European lawyers, all currently based in London, are embedded within the relevant sectors of the business.

Shelley says: ‘When I arrived ten years ago Westfield spent tens of millions on legal services, but I have built it up so that we have great capability internally and operate a bit like a mini law firm that services all the business.’

With a highly variable external legal spend of around £7m to £10m depending on the level of activity in a given year, the team turns to external law firms for help with tax, litigation, corporate real estate and property work, and in its recent major transactions has used a combination of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, SJ Berwin and Ashurst. Westfield also uses DAC Beachcroft’s regional offices for repeat instructions.

Freshfields recently assisted on a £750m refinancing via a commercial mortgage-backed securitisation, a first for the in-house legal team.

While Westfield’s team is based in London, it is currently hiring a lawyer in Milan, in anticipation of a raft of work on Westfield Milan, which is expected to be the largest shopping centre in Europe.

Other than Shelley, Georgina McManus is singled out for being ‘a knock-it-out-of-the-park, excellent lawyer with a business brain’ and the pair are said to ‘help drive the business forward, they are not just an internal legal team’.