CC backs the wrong horse in bidding war for Ruhrgas

In a private equity merry-go-round, Clifford Chance’s German practice has backed Permira in its failed acquisition bid for Ruhrgas Industries, the metering technology subsidiary of German energies group E.ON.

In a private equity merry-go-round, Clifford Chance’s German practice has backed Permira in its failed acquisition bid for Ruhrgas Industries, the metering technology subsidiary of German energies group E.ON.

In a coup for the firm’s German practice, Frankfurt partner Mario Schmidt advised the European private equity group on its takeover bid for Ruhrgas. However, rival private equity firm CVC Capital Partners won the auction, acquiring Ruhrgas for €l1.5bn (£1bn).

Clifford Chance is normally the key legal adviser to CVC in Germany. However, CVC decided to instruct Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer (led by Cologne-based corporate partner Ludwig Leyendecker) on the acquisition after Clifford Chance opted to advise Permira. Clifford Chance has a longstanding relationship with Permira in the UK, but has previously failed to replicate that relationship in Germany.

Freshfields has historically been Permira’s key corporate adviser in Germany, although the firm also has a longstanding relationship with CVC. Indeed, it represented CVC earlier this year on its winning bid to acquire the sugar confectionery unit of Dutch food group CSM for €850m (£566.4m).

In another twist, Shearman & Sterling Düsseldorf-based corporate partner Harald Selzner advised E.ON on the auction.

E.ON often instructs Freshfields, although it has had a relationship with both firms since E.ON’s creation in 1999 through the merger of Veba and Viag, when Shearman represented Veba and Freshfields Viag.

Clifford Chance declined to comment, and Shearman was unavailable for comment. Freshfields confirmed that Leyendecker advised CVC on the deal.