Ashurst and Cleary win Iceland roles off back of existing clients

Ashurst, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and ­Linklaters are understood to be among the firms to win roles on the bidding process for frozen food operator ­Iceland Foods – leveraging off their relationships with supermarkets, private ­equity houses and the failed Icelandic banks.

Linklaters is believed to be advising Icelandic bank Landsbanki, which is planning to auction off its 67 per cent stake in Iceland Foods. It was reported earlier this year that the magic circle firm had been brought in to carry out due diligence on the food giant.

Ashurst partner Adrian Clark has been instructed by longstanding client Wm Morrison, one of two ­supermarket chains to have expressed an interest in the target.

Asda and frozen foods business Farmfoods have also been linked with a deal to take over the company, while private equity houses TPG Capital, Bain Capital, Blackstone and BC Partners have all submitted bids.

Cleary Gottlieb is understood to be advising Texan private equity house TPG on its bid. The US firm has advised TPG on UK deals in the past, including its £150m investment in Bradford & Bingley in 2008, where it fielded corporate partner Simon Jay.

Bain has previously hired Kirkland & Ellis partner Sam Pakbaz for European deals, for example on its SEK21bn (£2bn) acquisition of Securitas Direct from EQT in June together with fellow private equity outfit Hellman & Friedman. At that time the two turned to London partners Pakbaz, Ross Allardice and James Learner.

Blackstone has relationships with US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and ­Herbert Smith, while BC Partners has traditionally used Scottish-headquartered firm Dickson Minto.

Linklaters and Dickson Minto did not return calls for comment. Cleary Gottlieb, Kirkland & Ellis and Scottish firm McGrigors, a frequent adviser to Asda, all declined to comment.

The first round of bidding is part of a process to auction off Iceland Foods, with the Icelandic owners said to be aiming for a £1.5bn ­valuation.