Awards preview: european in-house team of the year
14 June 2004
The 23 lawyers in BT’s in-house legal department collectively hold legal qualifications in more than 20 jurisdictions worldwide. Led by general counsel Anne Fletcher and Tim Cowen, who also sits on the board of BT Global Services, the team has been involved in a number of innovative and notable deals over the past year. One of the most important was BT’s work on the £5bn modernisation of the NHS’s IT systems. The legal team negotiated the company’s bids for the contracts – the 10-year London Local Service Provider contract, followed by another 10-year contract for the national patient database, in addition to 44 sub-contracts.
Germany’s second-largest bank boasts a sizeable legal department, and is now headed by 39-year-old Andreas Früh, who replaced Dieter Münich when he retired last year. Früh has made a real impact, understanding well how to promote his team. Notable recent deals include financing the leveraged buyouts (LBO) of Edscher, Viterra and Grohe; the upstream merger of Vereins- und Westbank into HypoVereinsbank itself; and the disposal of HypoVereinsbank’s real estate business. It also worked on capital raising for the bank. The legal team in Munich is bolstered by more than 200 lawyers in Poland, 40 in Vienna, and a small New York office.
The legal team at IBM Europe Middle East Africa is based around two stellar groups of lawyers in Paris and London. IBM’s lawyers are so closely aligned with their business groups that they know the commercial realities inside-out and consequently tend to outsource very little. While the global giant has not been as successful as it would have liked on some of the huge public sector deals that have dominated the UK market, IBM Global Services continues to be streets ahead of the opposition in the private sector. During the last year the team has signed deals with Michelin, Zurich Financial Services, Nordea and Goodyear.
The KPN in-house legal team has undergone a number of recent changes that have vastly improved the quality of its service. It began with the coup of hiring Shell’s Rene van Rooij as general counsel in 2003. Since then the Dutch telecoms company has brought in a great deal more work and got tough with its external advisers during a busy year. The company settled its long-running dispute with Hutchison Whampoa over the company’s joint venture, 3, as well as launching an unsuccessful bid for UK mobile operator MMO2. Both van Rooij and his mobile general counsel Annette Bordes have impressed with their ability to quickly get up to speed with unfamiliar concepts, such as UK takeover codes and for their commercial outlook.
The team that general counsel Francesco Capetta has built around him has impressed outsiders during a year of considerable transactional activity. While much of the legal work is outsourced, Capetta has had to manage some of Italy’s biggest and most important deals. Telecom Italia’s demerger of Seat Pagine Gialle was the largest demerger ever completed in Italy, while its merger with Olivetti was the country’s biggest of the year.
The legal department of mining company Xstrata is led by a South African, Benny Levene, based in Switzerland. Despite the company having a workforce of 20,000, the legal function consists of just 10 lawyers who report to the chief executive of the business unit to which they are assigned. In 2003, the biggest deal by far was the £1.3bn acquisition of Australia’s MIM Holdings. This was funded by a £900m rights issue, and doubled the size of Xstrata. The acquisition came a year after the company’s flotation on the London Stock Exchange, which was the first cross-border merger out of Switzerland under Swiss merger laws.