Ashcroft masterminds Thorn EMI demerger

UK entertainment giant Thorn EMI is relying on Rowe & Maw partner Charles Ashcroft in the complex legal work surrounding a possible world-wide demerger of the group.

Ashcroft is advising on the demerger's tax implications across 22 countries – a move which would rival the ICI/Zeneca split in scale, and which could be even more complicated in legal terms.

Robin Charlton, a barrister and company secretary to £4.5 billion turnover Thorn EMI, said: “We have an arrangement under which he (Ashcroft) will devote most of his time on this project, for whatever time is needed to see it through.

“He is co-ordinating the legal side as one of two project co-ordinators, working in tandem with someone in our finance department.”

The work will lead to a decision next year on whether a Thorn EMI demerger can work, a move the firm considers could be in shareholders' best long-term interests.

Charlton said tax efficiency in a demerger was important because the company needed to avoid potentially large tax charges on movements of assets and shares. Intellectual property law matters including trade marks would also be high on the lawyers' agenda, he said.

Also involved is Thorn EMI group legal adviser Marsden Smith. Ex-DTI Treasury Counsel George Bombas QC, of 4 Stone Buildings, is giving specialist advice.