Carphone Warehouse and TalkTalk split gets mouths watering

CARPHONE Warehouse is preparing to split in two, with the high street retail arm separating from the TalkTalk telecoms business.

CARPHONE Warehouse is preparing to split in two, with the high street retail arm separating from the TalkTalk telecoms business.

It is a choice instruction for one of the company’s chosen legal advisers, and early indications are that Osborne Clarke corporate partner Adrian Bott is in pole position.

He has a relationship with Carphone Warehouse chief executive Charles Dunstone going back to his days as a partner at Olswang, when he was the company’s main corporate counsel.

Bott moved to Osborne Clarke in 2002 and has continued to work with Carphone Warehouse general counsel Tim Morris.

It is understood that Bott has been offering preliminary advice to the company, ahead of the split.

But there are other firms in the running, and any of them could benefit from the mandate once the demerger becomes a reality later this year.

“The truth is that there’s probably a long way to go,” says a lawyer close to the situation, who suggests that the instruction is still up for grabs.

DLA Piper will be vying for position, having acted on the £370m acquisition of Time Warner’s AOL UK internet business in 2006. Manchester-based corporate partner James Kerrigan led the team.

Morris was a partner at DLA Piper before joining Carphone Warehouse and is still close to his former firm.

Ashurst, which advised Carphone Warehouse on its IPO in 2000, is another contender. Corporate partners Steven Fox and Bruce Hanton advised on the flotation.

It is understood that the firm was drafted in on the recommendation of the underwriting banks, who wanted top-tier capital markets expertise.

This will be a factor again for the demerger. As one source put it: “The sponsor will take a view as to who they’d like to see advising.”

In other words, an external firm not traditionally associated with Carphone Warehouse could come out of leftfield and steal the instruction, a galling prospect for the likes of Bott, Kerrigan and Fox.

The main stumbling block for the demerger is what to do with the company’s £924m bank debt, which means a firm with recognised finance practice would be at an advantage.