Baker & McKenzie edges in on Interbrew Bass challenge

Belgian brewer Interbrew has called in Baker & McKenzie to work alongside Simmons & Simmons on its judicial review.

Simmons boasts Interbrew as one of its biggest clients, and has so far been running the entire case, challenging the Government’s decision to block Interbrew’s acquisition of Bass Brewers.

Now Interbrew has called in Baker & McKenzie dispute resolution partner David Fraser, who won the judicial review into the lottery franchise at the end of last year on behalf of Camelot. Interbrew already has an existing corporate relationship with Baker & McKenzie.

Fraser will work alongside the Simmons team leading the case for Interbrew, which won leave to pursue a judicial review earlier this month. Baker & McKenzie is also acting for Transport for London as it considers a judicial review into the Government’s plans to part-privatise London Underground.

Simmons head of litigation Philip Vaughan is running the case, along with European Community and competition partner Martin Smith.

Vaughan has brought in top-rated silks for the Interbrew case, including Jonathan Sumption QC of Brick Court Chambers. He will be supported by Nicholas Green QC and Derrick Wyatt QC, both of the same set.

Vaughan says the decision to bring in Baker & McKenzie was taken by the client and not by Simmons. “Baker & McKenzie are offering a helping hand and a second opinion. I think they asked the client if they might be able to assist. It’s such an important case, and they’re Interbrew’s lawyers in other parts of Europe, so they involved a second firm to see if there were any other ways of doing things.”

Linklaters Oppenhoff & Rädler is also acting for Interbrew through its Brussels office, looking at the European dimensions of the case, namely the proceedings before the European Court of Justice.

Vaughan says the judicial review hearing is expected in May or June. It is challenging the decision of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Stephen Byers, as recommended by the Competition Commission, that Interbrew must sell Bass Brewers, which it acquired last year, because it already owns a brewing business.

Vaughan says Interbrew does not believe that the only remedy is the sale of Bass, so it is not the whole decision that Interbrew is challenging, just the remedy.

The Competition Commission has called in Kenneth Parker QC of Monckton Chambers, while the Department of Trade and Industry has called on David Anderson QC of Brick Court Chambers.