Gibson Dunn and Travers collaborate on Bridgepoint's Virgin investment

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner Nicholas Aleksander found himself teaming up with former colleagues from Travers Smith Braithwaite as the two firms worked on Bridgepoint Capital's investment in Virgin Active.
The London office of Gibson Dunn advised the management on the deal, with Travers Smith partner Charles Barter acting for long-time client Bridgepoint. Bridgepoint acquired a 55 per cent interest in Virgin Active in a transaction valuing the whole of the business at £110m.
The Virgin Group, advised by its usual external counsel Colin Howes of Harbottle & Lewis, retains 36.6 per cent of the business, with the management and Heller Capital holding 7.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively. Virgin Active operates nine health and fitness clubs in the UK and 76 clubs in South Africa.
The deal consolidates Travers Smith's strong relationship with Bridgepoint; it is Barter's third transaction for the private equity house this year. He said: “It was a very complicated deal in the end, in terms of how the intellectual property was supposed to work – that's very important to Virgin, and the way the tax is structured.”
Aleksander, who left Travers Smith in November 2000 to join Gibson Dunn, said: “Charles Barter and I have a history with the management team and Bridgepoint.” The two lawyers' relationship with the management team stretches back over a decade and the two have acted for the team in various incarnations. Virgin Active's managing director and finance director, Frank Reed and Matthew Bucknall, had both been backed by Bridgepoint Capital when they were working at LivingWell Health & Leisure, which was sold to Stakis, now part of the Hilton Group.
Up until now, Gibson Dunn's London office has focused on the sort of classic cross-border work undertaken by most US firms. Its major source of private equity work has been from Investcorp, but the Virgin transaction is the firm's first inroad into domestic private equity dealmaking.
Tax partner Aleksander is not the only former Travers Smith partner to surface at Gibson Dunn's London office. The corporate team also includes Mark Pinder, a former Travers Smith high-flier who was poached by Sidley & Austin as London head of corporate before moving across to Gibson Dunn.