Lovells retains ITV role despite Freshfields’ advances

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has muscled in on Lovells’ territory as the pair team up to advise ITV on its £9bn takeover talks.

This is the second time the firms have teamed up to defend the independent broadcaster from hostile bids. In March, Lovells and Freshfields advised ITV on an unsuccessful £3.6bn bid by a consortium led by Apax and Goldman Sachs.

Then, Lovells was the lead adviser, with Freshfields taking a secondary role. Sources at the magic circle firm say that the line-up is the same this time around too.

Up until now, ITV has remained tight-lipped about its choice of legal adviser. However, ITV has confirmed to The Lawyer that both firms are acting for it on potential takeover discussions.

It had previously commented only that Lovells remained its preferred external adviser. Corporate partner Hugh Nineham handles the ITV relationship at Lovells, and is leading the team on the current talks.

Freshfields has won an increasing amount of work from ITV since advising it on its delisting from the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Prior to the Apax and Goldman Sachs bid, ITV instructed the magic circle firm on the £120m acquisition of Friends Reunited in late 2005. Corporate partner Simon Marchant led on that deal.

Marchant is also leading the Freshfields team advising ITV on its current takeover talks.

Last week, ITV rebuffed a £9bn offer from NTL, which is represented by Ashurst and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, fielding teams respectively headed by corporate partners Robert Ogilvy-Watson and Robert Mollen. Ashurst also represented longstanding client Apax in the failed April bid for ITV.

BSkyB has also taken a 17.9 per cent stake in ITV, which was widely seen as an attempt to stymie rival NTL in a potential takeover.

BSkyB normally instructs Herbert Smith but a series of conflicts gifted the mandate to Allen & Overy, as first reported in The Lawyer (27 November). Corporate partner Richard Hough and head of antitrust John Wotton are leading A&O’s team.