Somerfield promises to retain Linklaters

Supermarket Somerfield has vowed to retain Linklaters as its key corporate adviser despite the departure of relationship partner Raymond McKeeve to Kirkland & Ellis.

Former Linklaters partner McKeeve has lured marquee private equity client Robert Tchenguiz to Kirkland, but has left the supermarket chain behind as an institutional client of the firm.

Somerfield’s company secretary Emily Martin said: “There was no question of us following Raymond.”

Last week Linklaters advised Somerfield on the disposal of 40 stores to former subsidiary Kwik Save – its first substantial work for the supermarket since McKeeve left.

McKeeve won Somerfield as a corporate client after advising the private equity consortium of Apax, Barclays Capital and Tchenguiz, which acquired Somerfield in December 2005. He left the magic circle firm in March, a month after completing Somerfield’s sale of Kwik Save to another consortium, Back to the Future.

It is understood that Linklaters’ historical relationship with J Sainsbury caused conflict fears in the firm’s corporate department when McKeeve won the Somerfield account.

Somerfield’s Martin said: “That’s never worried us and the firm has substantial Chinese walls.”

While Sainsbury’s has the magic circle firm’s global corporate head David Barnes as its relationship partner, Somerfield has no new single point of contact since McKeeve’s departure.