CLIFFORD Chance and Norton Rose are involved in one of the biggest cases in Bermudan legal history, which has the plot of an airport novel.
Expected to last a year, the case, over control of a family trust, is so big by Bermudan standards that a new court house had to be created from an old memorial hall – at the parties' expense. Bermuda simply did not have sufficient court space.
Rumours in high society suggest the action is not unconnected to the baron's fifth marriage to a Spanish former Miss World, who is 23 years his junior.
Starting on 19 April, the action is being brought by Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza against his son Heini Thyssen Junior and the trustees of the family settlement.
The Thyssen family is one of the most important and wealthy in Europe, with members appearing on the pages of society magazines such as Harpers & Queen. The case is estimated to be worth £1.2bn ($2bn).
Sixteen years ago, the baron put the family's property, business and industrial interests into a trust. Now the 78-year-old baron is trying to wrest back control of his business empire.
The baron claims to have been given bad financial advice by both his son and the trustees. Clifford Chance litigation partner Jeremy Sandelson says: “He claims that, in 1983, when he set up the trust, he was told he could still control the trust and have as much income from it as he liked.”
Sandelson, together with Jeremy Kosky and Lisa Taylor of the Clifford Chance's London office, is acting for the son.
The trustees and protectors are represented by Norton Rose partners James Bagge and Anthony Dutton.
Clifford Chance has briefed Alan Boyle QC and Nicholas Harrison of Serle Court Chambers. Norton Rose is to employ Nicholas Patten QC and Tom Leech of 9 Old Square.
The baron does not have instructing solicitors in England, but the Bermudan firm representing him, Appleby Spurling & Kempeit, has instructed Michael Crystal QC and David Alexander of 3-4 South Square.
Unfortunately for the lawyers involved, they will have to spend the best part of a year in this sunny tax haven.