Freshfields in lead for Chelsfield bid as SJ Berwin conflicted out

SJ Berwin conflicted out” />Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has emerged as the front-runner to act on the high profile sale of Chelsfield after key adviser SJ Berwin was asked to stand down because of a conflict of interest.

SJ Berwin had been the prime candidate to advise Chelsfield on a potential takeover, after corporate partner Robert Burrow led a team advising the Duelguide consortium, which bought out Chelsfield just three months ago in a deal worth £2bn.

Investors in the consortium include Chelsfield chairman Elliott Bernerd, who holds a 13.5 per cent stake, private investors the Reuben brothers who invested 35 per cent, HBOS with a 16 per cent share, and construction group Multiplex which owns 7.4 per cent.

SJ Berwin has a longstanding relationship with Bernerd. However, it has been widely reported that the chairman has clashed with majority shareholders the Reuben brothers in recent weeks over management issues, and Freshfields is now tipped to take over as the company’s key adviser on the new sale.

Chelsfield has already received approaches from two Australian companies – shareholder and construction giant Multiplex and shopping centre group Westfield Holdings.

However, the property developer has already rejected Multiplex’s original offer of £485m for being too low. The construction group is now understood to be considering making a higher offer.

If either of the bids proceed, Mulitplex is expected to instruct longstanding legal adviser Clifford Chance on negotiations, while Westfield is likely to take advice from Nabarro Nathanson, although it might opt for a magic circle heavyweight.

Addleshaw Goddard also appears to have secured a role in the sale as the likely candidate to advise the Reuben brothers, who are said to be considering making their own takeover bid for Chelsfield if offers from external parties prove to be too low.

Addleshaws developed its relationship with the Reuben brothers in 2002 when, prior to the merger in 2003, Theodore Goddard advised the investment vehicle on the £120m purchase of the Millbank Centre from Tishman Speyer. Addleshaws real estate partner Andrew Hill led the deal.

Although litigation partner Pietro Marino had advised the Reuben brothers previously, the Millbank Centre was the first time the firm muscled in on the brothers’ real estate work, which had been the sole domain of Denton Wilde Sapte.