DLA and Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) have landed new clients after both firms acted on the inaugural acquisition by Active Asset Investment Management (aAIM), the recently formed property investment company backed by Sir Alex Ferguson. DLA advised aAIM, which purchased Marks & Spencer's (M&S) flagship City development 70 Gracechurch St from insurance group XL Capital for around £150m. The second stage of the transaction saw XL enter into a 25-year leaseback with aAIM, which will result in the building being shared between M&S and the insurer. aAIM was recently launched by City financier Mark Tagliaferri and property entrepreneur Robert Whitton and has amassed considerable equity from high-profile footballers and businessmen alike. DLA did not have to tender for the work, having been recommended by a contact of senior partner Roger Lane-Smith. "[aAIM] came to us a couple of months ago, particularly to advise on tax planning and structuring," said real estate partner Richard Crossfield, who led the deal. aAIM is also advised by James Chapman & Co, which counts Manchester United FC and Sir Alex Ferguson among its clients. On this transaction the Manchester firm acted for a number of the individual investors. The deal also represented a first for BLP, which for the first time advised HSH Nordbank, the principal debt provider. "We've been talking to Nordbank for a very long time," said property finance partner Naveen Vijh. The bank is understood to have used Nicholson Graham & jones and Taylor Wessing on previous transactions. The other investor, Bank of Scotland, was advised by Nabarro Nathanson banking partner Kim McMurray. XL initially purchased the building from M&S in early July, with the intention of selling it again to aAIM in a sale-and-leaseback-style transaction. XL was advised by Clifford Chance, which has traditionally acted for the insurer on large corporate matters, but not on real estate work. This deal was led by Clifford Chance real estate partner Iain Morpeth, who structured the sale-and-leaseback transaction when he first advised on the original purchase from M&S. SJ Berwin partner Tom O'Grady advised M&S.