Eurotunnel: Weil Gotshal in, Herbert Smith pushed aside

Eurotunnel’s new board has brought in Weil Gotshal & Manges to oversee its restructuring, leaving long-time adviser Herbert Smith in a corporate role.

The US firm was chosen by the struggling Channel Tunnel operator last week to head up the reorganisation of its £6.4bn debt mountain.

The move is a small triumph for some parties involved in the deal, which have been pushing to have Herbert Smith removed from its advisory role. This would replicate the US style of restructuring, where a debtor entering a reorganisation will sack its law firm in favour of a “fresh pair of eyes”.

It is understood that Herbert Smith has been fully aware of Eurotunnel’s decision to bring in additional counsel and will work alongside Weil Gotshal.

Herbert Smith Paris-based projects partner Neil Brimson and London corporate partner Ben Ward are leading on the deal, while Weil Gotshal partner Chris Mallon will also work on it.

One source stated that the move did not amount to a sidelining of Herbert Smith, adding: “How the roles will be divided is a matter to be worked out in time.”

As well as the fact that much of the debt is held in US hedge funds, Herbert Smith will now have an ally in dealing with lawyers for the creditors. These include Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, which is acting for the largest debt holder MBIA.

Lazard and Lehman Brothers, retained by the new board two weeks ago, are expected to appoint their own legal adviser. Only one of the original line-up of financial advisers, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, remains involved in the deal.