Cast of thousands on NCP buyout sees Ashursts pip Lovells to win bid

The $1.2bn (£821.6m) buyout of National Car Parks (NCP) has kept numerous corporate, property and finance lawyers busy for the last couple of months. Two of the key players, NCP's owner Cendant and successful bidder Cinven, were represented by their long-term advisers Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and Ashurst Morris Crisp respectively. However, the deal provided opportunities for a host of other firms to act for less established clients.
Skadden's Cendant relationship partner Michael Hatchard worked on the deal alongside fellow London partner John Adebiyi. The firm also worked on Cendant's acquisition of NCP in 1998.
Memoranda were sent to interested parties in February and 20 investors took part in the auction process. After two rounds, the number of bidders was trimmed down to just three – Cinven, Apax and BC Partners.
Adebiyi said: “The auction was extremely challenging because we had to negotiate with three separate parties for a fairly protracted period. This really necessitated three separate personalities.”
Apax was represented by Lovells partner Derek Baird, who the firm hired from corporate finance boutique Dickson Minto last year. Acting for Apax competitor BC Partners was Baird's old firm Dickson Minto, which is a long-term adviser of the private equity firm.
Clifford Chance usually represents Apax, but on this deal the magic circle firm appeared for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which provided finance for NCP holding company Parking International. Clifford Chance partners Karen Hodson and Adam Signy provided corporate finance advice for RBS, which appointed the firm to its panel late last year. Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), another recent panel appointment, advised the bank on property finance.
NCP is just the type of deal BLP's RBS client relationship partner Simon Kildhal wants to see the firm working on. The BLP team comprised Kildhal, Mark Waghorn, Brenda Gadd and around 30 other property lawyers.
Cendant also took separate property law advice from a Davies Arnold Cooper team led by commercial property partner David Roberts and property finance partner Paul McCartney. DAC has worked for NCP on smaller property matters in the past, but this was an impressive deal for a firm best known for its insurance litigation department.
Travers Smith Braithwaite advised NCP's management, including chief executive officer Bob McNaughton. The firm, which is fast emerging as a management specialist on buyouts, fielded partners Chris Hale, Mark Soundy and Andrew Lilley.
At the end of the bidding process, Cinven, represented by an Ashursts team comprising Charlie Geffen, Jonathan Angell, Simon Cookson, Hugh Lumby, John Watson, Ian Johnson and Caroline Carter, snatched victory. Geffen said: “From our perspective, it was a very well run auction. It's not often that it goes to the line like this one.”