Shoosmiths scoops Abbey National on joint venture

The firm advised on the £400m Covista joint venture between Abbey and facilities management specialist Stiell.
In 2000, Abbey sold off all its real estate to Mapeley Columbus in a groundbreaking sale and leaseback deal. However, the bank was still responsible for the maintenance of the buildings at a cost of £40m a year. Last year, it decided to form a joint venture company with its facilities manager Stiell and to transfer all of the staff involved in buildings maintenance to the company.
In an unexpected move, it called on Midlands-based firm Shoosmiths to handle the corporate work. Shoosmiths has advised Abbey for some time, but mainly on high-volume, low-value work, such as the remortgaging run through the firm's Mortgage Direct service. The firm had also handled some general commercial work in the past. However, it had never worked on the corporate side before partner Oliver Brookshaw was appointed to lead the corporate team on the joint venture.
Abbey's main corporate adviser is Slaughter and May, which led the company's defence against the Lloyds TSB takeover. The bank also has relationships with Berwin Leighton Paisner, which it used on the financing of a £60m Edinburgh retail development last autumn, and with DLA. Abbey's trailblazing Mapeley Columbus outsourcing deal was handled by Robert Kidby of Lovells.
The Covista joint venture deal was launched last week. It is less legally complex or groundbreaking than Mapeley Columbus, but it is nevertheless an extremely impressive client win for Shoosmiths.
According to Brookshaw, the firm used the reputation of other departments to gain an entry into corporate work. He said: “By having us work with them, Abbey appreciated the quality of what we could do – not just the work, but the manner in which we delivered it. Of course, price was also very important in difficult times.”
The Shoosmiths corporate team drafted the joint venture agreement with Stiell. The commercial team, led by Louise Finlayson, drafted the 10-year service agreement which is worth an estimated £400m.
Scottish-based Stiell was advised by Maclay Murray & Spens, while the Covista directors got separate representation from Milton Keynes-based firm Fennemores.