Hogan Lovells to choose between Murdoch and ITV

David Harris

Lovells’ international executive has begun a major analysis of the firm’s clients to identify potential post-merger conflicts.

Relationships such as the one Lovells has with ITV are expected to be problematic when the Hogan & Hartson merger goes live in May.

Lovells’ international executive, chaired by managing partner David Harris, is in the process of identifying all potential high-level commercial conflicts. As soon as the merger goes live a Hogan Lovells conflicts panel will be formed to decide how to proceed.

Hogan’s role as adviser to a raft of Rupert Murdoch-owned businesses and Lovells’ longstanding relationship with ITV could spark the first transatlantic power struggle in the early stages of the merger.

Hogan has had a relationship with Murdoch since its 2002 merger with New York media firm Squadron Ellenoff Plesent & Sheinfeld, which acted on the series of acquisitions that formed the News Corporation empire. Since then Hogan has acted for businesses including BSkyB, News Corp, 20th Century Fox and Sky Latin America, with lawyers across its global network giving advice.

ITV is one of Lovells’ most institutionalised clients, with former corporate chief Hugh Nineham, who left for McDermott Will & Emery in 2008, consolidating the relationship while at Lovells.

The relationship was strengthened last year when ITV general counsel Andrew Garard signed a deal with Lovells allowing ITV’s legal team to utilise the firm’s pro bono infrastructure and client base.

A Lovells spokesman said: “Both Lovells and Hogan have very strong media and pharmaceutical practices. Those are the sorts of areas where we’re looking at the client base and where the conflicts potentially are.”

The managing partner of a UK firm that has been through a US merger said that, if Hogan Lovells concludes that advising both BSkyB and ITV would create a conflict, it is likely the ITV relationship would end. “The Americans always get what they want,” he said.

Hogan did not return calls for comment.