Deals comment

Ottakar’s MBO scuppered as Simmons client HMV takes lead
Simmons & Simmons has backed the likely winner in the battle for bookstore chain Ottakar’s after client HMV Group made a formal takeover bid. HMV, which owns rival chain Waterstone’s, has put forward a £96.4m takeover proposal, which looks likely to scupper an earlier management buyout (MBO) bid. The independent directors of Ottakar’s have withdrawn their recommendation for the £91.1m MBO offer, which was made through newly-formed company Book Store Acquisitions and backed by Phoenix Equity Partners. It is understood that HMV convinced the directors that its bid would clear any competition hurdles, even though a combined business would hold nearly a quarter of the UK book market. The about-turn leaves DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and Travers Smith unsettled, as they have been advising the MBO team and Phoenix respectively (as first revealed in The Lawyer, 12 September). Simmons partners Alan Karter (pictured), Giles Dennison and Damon Le Maitre-George are leading the team advising HMV. Macfarlanes, led by corporate partner Simon Martin, is advising Ottakar’s.

Boosey & Hawkes up for grabs for second time in two years
Boosey & Hawkes looks set to generate plenty of fees for lawyers once again. The sheet music publisher is up for sale for the second time in two years for £130m. Potential suitors have already expressed an interest. Private equity houses said to be circling include Sterling Square Capital and European Acquisition Capital, both failed bidders from the past. Other contenders include rival publishers such as Music Sales and Kingstreet Music. Last time, HgCapital bought the company in 2003 for £75m as part of a management buyout (MBO), and it looks set to make a big profit on its 77 per cent stake. Lovells advised HgCapital, led by private equity rainmaker Marco Compagnoni, while Slaughter and May corporate partner Robert Stern advised Boosey & Hawkes. Denton Wilde Sapte was instructed to advise on the MBO. Law firms will no doubt be readying themselves for battle, but with the last auction lasting more than two years it could be a long time before a winner is announced.