A&O financial institutions chief to take top legal job at Co-op

Allen & Overy (A&O) financial institutions head Alistair Asher is to take the top legal job at the Co-operative Group, starting as group general counsel on 1 July. 

The move follows Asher’s lead role advising Co-op on its £1.5bn debt restructuring, which was announced yesterday (17 June 2013). A&O’s mandate from the Co-op follows its role for Britannia Building Society on its merger with the Co-op’s financial arm in 2009, on which corporate partner Richard Slynn led for Britannia (21 January 2009).

Asher told The Lawyer he was offered the role only weeks ago, while working on the debt restructuring. The position of group general counsel is a new one, part of various management changes at Co-op. No other legal roles are expected to be introduced to the management team.

The magic circle firm confirmed the move and said Asher, whose clients also include Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, Liberty Global, Thomas Cook amd WH Smith, will be leaving A&O on 1 July after 34 years with the firm, 26 of which were spent as partner.

There have been various management changes at the Co-op in recent months. The group took on new chief executive Euan Sutherland, the former COO at B&Q owner Kingfisher, in May after former chief executive Peter Marks retired in March.

The SRA approved CLS’s plans to convert Cooperative Legal Services (CLS) to an alternative business structure in March last year (28 March 2012). The company said it would radically increase its staff base from 450 to 3,000 as it expands over the next five years, building five regional hubs around the country.

The Co-op’s unsuccessful attempt to acquire 632 branches from Lloyds Banking Group, which fell through earlier this year, saw instructions given to Clifford Chance corporate partners Hilary Evenett and Mark Poulton for the Co-op and Linklaters’ Jeremy Parr and Matthew Bland for Lloyds (19 July 2012).