BMI chairman flies in Linklaters to force Lufthansa’s hand

BMI BRITISH Midland chairman Sir Michael Bishop has drafted in Linklaters to try to force rival airline Lufthansa to complete its planned takeover of the company.

Bishop is attempting to enforce a contract requiring the German airline to buy his majority stake in BMI, calling on Linklaters corporate partner Matthew Middleditch.

But Lufthansa, represented by longstanding adviser Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, is waiting for BMI to shore up its balance sheet before completing the deal amid growing tension between the two companies.

BMI has called on Ashurst London corporate partner Gavin Gordon and litigation partner James Levy.

The takeover has recently been granted approval by European regulators, but Lufthansa is reported to have made a request to Bishop to make a capital injection of around £100m into BMI.

Bishop’s company, BBW Partnership, has issued proceedings to the High Court in a bid to force Lufthansa to complete the acquisition.

Bishop’s stake is though to be worth around £350m.

Lufthansa chief financial officer Stephan Gemkow has warned that the German group could walk way from the takeover unless his company’s demands are met.

BMI is a regular client of Ashurst, but key relationship partner Roger Finbow, who advised on the original deal in 2008, left the firm to join the Competition Commission in April this year.

Gordon was also involved in the deal and continues to advise the company.

Freshfields advised Lufthansa on the BMI deal in 2008, led by London-based corporate partner Sundeep Kapila.

The firm has a relationship with the airline going back to the 1990s, led by Frankfurt-based partner Dirk Schmalenbach.

BMI is the second-largest airline operating from Heathrow and controls some 11 per cent of the runway slots at the airport.