Freshfields and Herbies reprise Warner-EMI battle

Warner Music’s renewed attack on EMI will reunite last year’s line-up of legal advisers, with Herbert Smith to square up to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Although no formal offer has yet been made, EMI, the third-biggest music group in the world, confirmed today that it had received an approach by Warner.

Neither firm would comment other than confirming their status as the companies’ respective longstanding counsel, but M&A specialist James Palmer is relationship partner for Warner at Herbert Smith while corporate partner Mark Rawlinson and competition partner Rachel Brandenburger manage the EMI relationship at Freshfields.

The news comes as EMI has only just installed its new general counsel, with Chris Ancliff replacing Charles Ashcroft.

In 2006, both groups tried to buy each other out, with Freshfields launching a “Pac-Man” defence for EMI (see The Lawyer, 29 June 2006). EMI launched an offer for Warner at $31 per share in cash, while Warner hit back with a pre-conditional offer for EMI structured at 320p per share, which was immediately rejected.

Takeover talks were abandoned last year when the EU put a stop to the merger between Sony and Bertelsmann Music Group on competition grounds.