Freshfields wins Texas Pacific buyout work

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

has strengthened its relationship with Texas Pacific Group after landing an instruction to advise the US buyout house on its bid for British Vita.

Freshfields private equity partner Ed Braham is advising Texas Pacific on the corporate aspects of its £624m offer for British Vita, a FTSE 250 UK chemicals group .

According to sources close to the deal, Texas Pacific’s law firm of choice, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, missed out on the corporate aspects of the deal because the US firm lacked a sufficient domestic M&A capability in London.

However, it is understood that Cleary is handling the finance and competition aspects arising out of the deal, as well as the equity arrangements for Texas Pacific.

A London-based Cleary partner denied that the firm lacked a sufficient domestic M&A capability in the UK, but declined to comment specifically on the British Vita deal.

The mandate is a coup for Freshfields, because although the magic circle firm has previously acted for Texas Pacific, this is understood to be one of the first times the firm has been instructed directly by the client.

The last time Freshfields acted for Texas Pacific on a UK M&A deal was when the buyout house bought high street retailer Debenhams. However, on that deal Freshfields was brought in because of the firm’s relationship with CVC Capital Partners, which led the consortium that bought Debenhams.

The move is also a blow to Slaughter and May, which has a relationship with Texas Pacific, advising the buyout house when it acquired Scottish & Newcastle’s pub estate in 2003.

British Vita is being advised by Ashurst, which has a longstanding relationship with the company, although this is understood to be the first M&A deal that the firm has handled for British Vita since the late 1990s.

The Ashurst team is led by corporate partners Adrian Clarke and Robert Ogilvie Watson.

British Vita rejected Texas Pacific’s latest offer of 335p per share on 4 February, a move that has resulted in mounting press speculation of a possible hostile offer.

Ashurst and Freshfields declined to comment.