Liffe Spitalfields deal cheers City lawyers

In one of the largest ever property deals in the City, lawyers are drawing up the terms of the high-profile sale of part of Spitalfields Market to the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (Liffe).

The multi-million pound deal is seen as a victory for the City Corporation over Canary Wharf, which had been trying to tempt Liffe out of the City. It will involve creating up to 700,000 sq ft of office space for Liffe on the former fruit and vegetable market in Tower Hamlets, just outside the traditional City boundary.

Norton Rose property partner Jonathan Solomon and assistant Roger Thornton negotiated with Liffe on behalf of Spitalfields Development (SDL), a consortium of BICC, Costain and Swedish developer SPP Real Estate, which leases Spitalfields from the City Corporation. Linklaters & Paines property partner Robert Finch, assisted by Catherine Gough, is representing Liffe.

Solomon said that, in a move which showed how keen the City was to retain Liffe, the City Corporation has undertaken to reacquire the Spitalfields site should the exchange decide not to proceed with the new building at any time before the end of 2001. “They are effectively underwriting the deal, but in a rather unusual way,” he said.

Liffe and SDL have signed heads of agreement to enter into exclusive negotiations for the purchase and development of the site.

DJ Freeman also has a hand in the deal, representing SDL in negotiations with the City Corporation to amend its freehold title on the site.

Norton Rose and DJ Freeman worked on a previous deal in which ABN/AMRO agreed to develop its HQ on the site.