Clifford Chance has won the lead advisory role for Sainsbury’s in its potential offer for Home Retail Group, while the latter sought counsel from the supermarket’s long-standing lawyers Linklaters.
Linklaters is the main legal adviser for both Sainsbury’s and Home Retail, with partner Iain Fenn serving as the magic circle’s firm relationship partner for Sainsbury’s.
As a result, the target Home Retail chose to seek legal counsel on this offer from Linklaters partners Owen Clay and Nick Garland to prevent a conflict of interest.
Linklaters’ involvement for Home Retail led Sainsbury’s to find an alternative adviser, with the supermarket chain choosing Clifford Chance partners Patrick Sarch and Guy Norman, as well as finance head Michael Bates and antitrust partner Alastair Mordaunt.
Sainsbury’s made an approach to Home Retail, owner of Argos and Homebase, back in November but it was rejected. This has led the supermarket to reconsider its position, having worked in partnership with Home Retail last year to trial Argos concessions in Sainsbury’s stores.
Sainsbury’s has until early February to announce a firm intention to make an offer for the company.
Background to the deal
With Sainsbury’s unable to seek counsel from its long-standing lawyers, the company looked around for another corporate firm to advise it on the Home Retail offer.
According to The Lawyer Market Intelligence (LMI), Sainsbury’s usually turns to Addleshaw Goddard, Charles Russell Speechlys, CMS Cameron McKenna and Dentons on corporate deals. These firms are understood to have been appointed to the company’s panel in 2014.
However, it sought out Clifford Chance, of which its company secretary and corporate services director Tim Fallowfield is an alumnus. Fallowfield oversees the legal function, with general counsel Nick Grant reporting to him.
The firm has acted for Sainsbury’s before, but is not listed as a traditional corporate adviser for the company.