Ashurst bags lead mandate on Morrisons’ deal with Ocado

Ashurst has won the top role advising Wm Morrison Supermarkets on its ongoing discussions with Ocado over its online delivery services.

Ashurst fielded a team including partners Bruce Hanton and Dominic Ross.

Meanwhile Ocado used in-house counsel, including head of special projects Jonathan Wiseman. Wiseman was the lead associate at Slaughter and May when the firm advised Ocado on its first partnership deal with Morrisons in 2013, which gave Morrisons access to a customer fulfilment centre (CFC) owned by Ocado, as well as technology and services operated by the online retailer.

In the most recent negotiations, headline terms have been agreed between the two retailers which would see Morrisons share space in another one of Ocado’s CFCs in south London. If the transaction goes ahead, Morrisons will be able to sell its products to more online customers across Great Britain.

While agreeing new terms with Ocado, Morrisons has also announced a new supply arrangement with Amazon, in which hundreds of Morrisons products will be available to Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Pantry customers. These negotiations are also understood to have been run in-house.

Background to the deal 

Ashurst has acted for Morrisons since it advised it on the takeover of Safeway in 2004 and also represented it on its initial operating agreement with Ocado in 2013. The firm is one of the supermarket’s main legal advisers, according to The Lawyer Market Intelligence, along with Eversheds and Gordons.

While Slaughter and May was also involved in Morrisons’ and Ocado’s 25-year partnership deal agreed in 2013, the firm is not involved in the most recent transaction that was able to be handled in-house.

Morrisons’ legal function is headed by general counsel Mark Amsden, who joined from Addleshaw Goddard in 2012, while Ocado’s is led by legal and business affairs executive director Neill Abrams. Slaughters alumni Wiseman joined the retailer in 2014.