In-housers hold on tight as mergers bite

It was the month of the survivors for in-house heads of legal in September. A resurgence of M&A activity involving some of the UK’s largest companies had resulted in sweeping changes to many in-house legal functions.

BOC Group legal director Nick Deeming kept his job despite the takeover of the industrial gas giant by Germany’s Linde, securing the role to head the combined business’s in-house legal function and tasked with reviewing his operation. Deeming beat competition from Linde’s legal chief Lothar Dressel.

Deeming says he will look for “synergies and savings” to be made in his 55-lawyer team and complete a comprehensive review of external legal advisers on a global basis. Slaughter and May is BOC’s principal outside counsel, while Linde was advised on the takeover by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

In the aviation transport sector, BAA legal chief Robert Herga kept his job following the company’s £12bn takeover by Spanish construction giant Ferrovial. Herga immediately sounded a warning to the airport company’s legal advisers, signalling a review.

Herbert Smith remains in the box seat as the firm’s longstanding adviser, and the firm also advised the group on Ferrovial’s takeover, with Freshfields again involved, advising Ferrovial.

BAA’s seven-strong in-house legal team had been busy throughout the takeover, also handling the work relating to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) market study of UK airports, which focuses heavily on BAA-controlled airports. Submissions on that study closed in August, with a report due later this year, and many observers expect the OFT to refer its findings to the Competition Commission for a major investigation.

O2 merged with Spanish telecoms group Telefonica earlier this year and appointed competition head Justine Campbell as its new general counsel. Campbell replaces Phillip Bramwell, who took the top legal job at BAE Systems, replacing Michael Lester.

Meanwhile, Boots’ legal team is to launch its first formal adviser panel following its £7bn merger with Alliance UniChem. Alliance’s general counsel Marco Pagni secured the top legal job at the merged company.