Macfarlanes helps Cordiant to fight off Cerberus bid

Macfarlanes has come to the aid of longstanding client Cordiant Communications, the advertising group that was plunged into crisis when one of its key clients, Allied Domecq, withdrew its account.

Cordiant is under attack from US hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management and is now said to be looking for white knights.

Cerberus, which specialises in buying and selling the debt of distressed companies, is being advised by Ashurst Morris
Crisp corporate partner Giles Boothman.

Ashursts took on the hedge fund at the beginning of this year and it is understood that the firm has advised Cerberus on several deals since. The City firm used to act for vulture funds in the 1990s, before the departure of Stephen Mostyn-Williams and Clifford Atkins to Shearman & Sterling, but has done little of this type of work since.

Cerberus also uses US hedge fund specialist Schulte Roth & Zabel, which has recently opened a London office and is already making headway into UK fund formation. Partner Christopher Hilditch looks after Cerberus.

It is understood that Cordiant, which is part of the old Saatchi & Saatchi advertising giant, is considering a number of defensive proposals, including swapping debt for equity or launching a rescue rights issue, as well as a possible takeover.

Reports also suggest that Cerberus has offered to inject £30m of new cash as part of a deal to refinance the group. The hedge fund will lend money only on the condition that other creditors reschedule their payments over a longer period.

In February, the group announced plans to sell non-core assets, including Financial Dynamics, a public relations agency that is seeking a management buyout backed by US venture capitalist Advent International. Advent is using Lovells partner Derek Baird.

Cordiant last week announced that it has signed a definitive agreement with its lenders to provide continuing financing arrangements until 15 July.

The Macfarlanes team is being led by the firm’s senior partner Robert Sutton.

Bingham McCutchen is acting for Cordiant’s noteholders and Allen & Overy is advising the banks.