A&O wraps up financing for new Arsenal stadium

Allen & Overy

(A&O) has completed the landmark financing for Arsenal FC’s new stadium project, having beaten Norton Rose to the banking consortium’s work in a competitive tender.

The project, with an estimated cost of £357m, will see Arsenal relocate to a newly-built stadium nearby and the listed Eastern Stand at Highbury converted into apartments. The new ground will be built on Islington’s waste tip and recycling centre, which Arsenal has also agreed to relocate.

A team from A&O, led by real estate managing partner Adam Cleal together with projects partners Brian Harrison and Gareth Price and construction partner Nigel Pritchard, won the instruction for the banks in late 2002, beating Norton Rose.

They advised the arrangers, led by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Banco Espírito Santo de Investimento, on the £260m senior debt lent to Ashburton Properties, a subsidiary of the Arsenal Group.

It is the second stadium financing on which A&O has scored a key role, with the firm recently advising Wembley National Stadium on the financing of the new stadium.

Slaughter and May scored the plum role for Arsenal. Corporate partner Nigel Boardman, a long-time Gunners fan, supervised Arsenal’s 2002 scheme of arrangement, which paved the way for the financing.

The Slaughters team was headed by Richard Slater, another season ticket holder, on the financing, and Steve Edwards on real estate and construction. One of the more morbid issues which Slater says must be resolved is what to do with the urns of the many Arsenal fans who have had their ashes buried beneath the pitch at Highbury.

Meanwhile, Jones Day picked up a key real estate instruction for Arsenal, thanks to former Gouldens partner and longstanding Arsenal planning lawyer David Cooper.

Cooper, who has since left the firm to start his own planning boutique, took the planning work with him. However, Jones Day, headed by John Mitchell, held on to the real estate instruction.

Islington Council instructed Eversheds’ real estate and planning teams, led by partner John Butler, while Linklaters advised Barclays Bank.

No law firm has yet been instructed on the redevelopment of the Highbury Stadium site, which will not be available until 2006, but Taylor Wessing is the stadium’s traditional adviser.