Clifford Chance has sealed its first major UK deal for Blackstone Capital Partners (BCP), advising on the private equity firm’s recommended bid for care home business NHP.
The magic circle firm secured the instruction thanks partly to a conflict at Ashurst, which was advising the target, NHP.
Ashurst declined to comment, but it is understood that the firm advised Blackstone when it was the underbidder for nursing home operator Four Seasons this summer.
Partners at the firm would have expected a follow-on instruction on BCP’s next deal. However, Ashurst is the longstanding adviser of NHP. Head of corporate Adrian Clarke led on the deal for NHP, supported by Jonathan Angell and Nigel Parr.
The NHP deal was a joint BCP-Blackstone Real Estate Partners (BREP) initiative, as a significant proportion of the £564m the Blackstone Group paid for NHP was for the business’s property assets.
Clifford Chance has a longstanding relationship with BREP in London and gets the majority of the fund’s transactional work. The firm also has a strong relationship with BCP in Germany, but in London has so far advised BCP on only unsuccessful bids or deals in which BCP was a minor player in a consortium.
Clifford Chance private equity partner Adam Signy led on the deal, supported by corporate partner Ian Bagshaw.
BCP has a rock-solid relationship with US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, but has been relatively free with its favours when instructing UK legal advisers.
Through Simpson Thacher, the firm has a relationship with Herbert Smith, but has also given fresh instructions to both Ashurst and Slaughter and May this year. BCP is a prime target for other City firms, including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which does its funds work, because the private equity house is so active in the UK.
The NHP deal marks yet another round in the consolidation of the UK nursing home and healthcare market. BCP also bought NHP’s smaller rival Southern Cross earlier this year. One of the few targets left is the UK’s largest healthcare provider Bupa, which is a client of Eversheds.