Irwin Mitchell enters the City big league

What’s going on at Irwin Mitchell? Once known primarily as an insurance powerhouse, the firm has been busy setting out its new commercial stall under the banner of its ‘business legal services’ division.

Over the past 18 months, it has hired more than 12 lateral partners to the team including four DLA Piper commercial property partners, Nabarro corporate partner Andrea Cropley and Squire Sanders banking duo Andrew Watson and Jon Bew.

In September 2012 the firm scooped its first international property deal, advising Dutch property company Redevco on the sale of its Turkish portfolio to private equity giant Blackstone for £160m.

There’s no doubt the firm will have cracked out the champers to celebrate the completion of one of its latest transactions – advising new client Wells Fargo on the acquisition of a £4bn commercial real estate loan bookfrom Commerzbank subsidiary Hypothekenbank Frankfurt.

The £4bn loan book has been split, with £2.7bn of performing UK property loans being acquired by Wells Fargo, and £1.3bn of non-performing loans being acquired by private equity group Lone Star with financing from Wells Fargo.

Irwin Mitchell acted for Wells Fargo on the real estate due diligence aspects of the deal, after the bank was recommended to the firm by an existing client. Allen and Overy co-ordinated the joint bid for the acquirers alongside Dechert, while Ashurst acted for Commerzbank on its aspects of the deal.

Thought to be one of the largest European commercial real estate debt transactions ever – and certainly the largest since the start of the financial crisis – does this signal Irwin Mitchell’s business services team joining the big league? Watch this space.