Forte's loss proves Lovells' success

LOVELL White Durrant's reputation for hostile bid work will be further enhanced by its client Granada's successful £3.9 billion bid for Forte.

A merger of Forte's in-house functions could also spell a job change for its legal director David Stevens, appointed to the newly-created post less than a year ago. Granada sources suggest the job of Forte legal director may be threatened by the mergers.

The fierce two-month battle for Forte, thought to have consumed up to £63 million in advisers' fees, involved lawyers at the sharp end of strategic and tactical planning, with Gran-ada's advisers structuring an innovative reward for shareholders, according to insiders.

Dan Mace, the Lovells corporate partner who fronted a team on Granada's successful acquisition of television company LWT last year, led the firm's team again.

“This bid has demonstrated that hostile bids still have a role to play, and that lawyers have a significant contribution to make,” said Mace.

Lovells, which has enjoyed on-going Granada work since LWT, started on the Forte bid late last summer, culminating in the first offer on 25 November.

Working closely with Slaughter and May, acting for financial advisers Lazards, Mace's team produced masses of documents for the offer, shareholders and the press.

Revising the offer involved an innovative structuring with the prospect of a special dividend to shareholders, to be paid by Forte itself.

As a reply to Forte's share buy-back offer, Granada's lawyer-driven initiative broke new ground for a hostile bid, said sources.

Other legal teams fielded some of the City's top names. Tim Freshwater headed the Slaughters team, and Linklaters & Paines' Charles Allen-Jones, until recently the firm's corporate head, advised Forte in its attempts to kill the Granada bid. Allen & Overy advised Granada's banks, and Clifford Chance advised brewer Whitbread, which was to buy parts of Forte's business as part of the defence strategy.