City private equity firms scramble for pole position with Apax

Top private equity firm Apax Partners is considering setting up its first ever legal panel, which could see key advisers left out in the cold.

Sources say Allen & Overy (A&O), Ashurst Morris Crisp, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Travers Smith Braithwaite are the frontrunners to win a place if the move goes ahead.

Apax has also been targeted by Slaughter and May, which has been making a concerted effort to win more private equity work. Just last week a team of four Slaughters partners gave a presentation at Apax’s London office.

The private equity house has been contemplating the move since it teamed up with US counterpart Hicks Muse Tate & Furst on the £2.1bn buyout of Yell in 2001.

During the transaction, Hicks Muse was represented by longtime adviser Weil Gotshal & Manges, while Travers acted for Apax.

Stephen Green, head of the financial services industry group and a director in the leverage transaction group
at Apax, told The Lawyer: “Many US firms have a preferred supplier relationship and we’ve come across this in the past.”

Apax uses a myriad of firms here and in Europe – in the UK Ashursts, Clifford Chance and Travers handle the lion’s share of the work.

In Germany, Freshfields and Baker & McKenzie count Apax as a client, while SJ Berwin is Apax’s house law firm for fund formation work.

In the past, Apax has used other firms, including A&O, Weil Gotshal and Lovells.

Green said: “We’ve been very widespread with our favours.”
Although Green said the idea of a legal panel is in the early stages, Apax is already setting up a formal list of accountancy firms which have already been asked to tender.