Law firms look to Wood Wharf as tenders abound

With the end of the battle for Canary Wharf now in sight, law firms are switching their attention to its next door neighbour, Wood Wharf.

British Waterways Board (BWB) is seeking a partner for the 20-acre, £2bn development site, which is situated next to Canary Wharf at the top of the Isle of Dogs.

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has already landed the plum role of advising BWB, but with the shortlist revealed last week, a host of new firms are now entering the fray.

The deal has created headlines already, because bidder Canary Wharf Group (CWG) was furious to find that CWG founder Paul Reichmann’s company, IPC Advisers, was named on the shortlist as a rival bidder.

While a source at CWG said the group was considering its options, it is understood that no legal proceedings were actually issued.

However, it may be that the threat was enough to scare Reichmann off, because he withdrew from the race last Wednesday (28 April). And that was bad news for Macfarlanes, which has been advising Reichmann on the Canary Wharf deal, and should have been in line for this deal as well.

Meanwhile, Clifford Chance partner Joel Ziff is advising CWG on its bid for the scheme, and is also engaged in advising the group on its sale.

Rival bidder Hammerson has opted for long-term adviser Herbert Smith. A likely guess for British Land would be SJ Berwin, which was unable to advise the long-term client on the Canary Wharf bid because of a conflict. Argent may opt for long-term adviser Lovells.

Other bidders are still thought to be in the process of appointing their advisers. Development Securities, for example, had still not appointed advisers at the time that The Lawyer went to press – although Linklaters seems a likely choice. The Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate seems likely to opt for Slaughter and May, with help from regular property adviser Boodle Hatfield.

Further bidders include Amec, Miller Group and Morley, which are pitching together, and long-term Ashurst client Stanhope.