Herbert Smith secures ABF portfolio for best friend Cravath

Cravath Swaine & Moore has won Associated British Foods (ABF) as a new client, thanks to Herbert Smith.

The New York firm is working alongside ABF’s longstanding legal adviser Herbert Smith, with which Cravath has a referral relationship, on the company’s £722m acquisition of the yeast, spices and herbs business from the Australian food group Burns Philp.

ABF, which has historically outsourced US-related work to Dewey Ballantine, turned to Cravath because Dewey had already accepted an instruction from Burns Philp to advise on the US aspects of the deal.
A well-placed source said Cravath was awarded the mandate because of links with Herbert Smith. “A US firm was needed for the deal because the agreement is governed by New York law. Cravath was a good choice as it isn’t a threat to Herbert Smith,” said the source.

Herbert Smith has had a referral relationship with Cravath for several years and together the firms have a number of common clients, including Time Warner.

It is understood that Cravath was also chosen because ABF’s general counsel Paul Lister has a longstanding relationship with Ronald Rolfe, one of the firm’s litigation partners. The pair know each other from Lister’s previous role at Guinness.

The acquisition is a gradual move away from a reliance on sugar by ABF. The group, which owns brands such as Ryvita, Twinings and Ovaltine, as well as owning the Primark retail chain, has been looking for a large acquisition for some time.

The Herbert Smith team is being led by corporate partner Stephen Hancock. Meanwhile, Cravath corporate partner Faizer Saeed is the principal adviser to ABF.

Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw is providing advice to Burns Philp on the UK aspects of the deal.

The acquisition, which is subject to antitrust clearances in a number of jurisdictions, is expected to be completed by 30 September.