Amey rules out formal panel plan following Enterprise merger

Public services provider Amey has decided against setting up a formal panel of legal advisers in favour of an informal referral system with a set of ten preferred firms, following its merger with Enterprise in 2013.

The panel shakeup follows the exit of Enterprise group legal director Mark Sanderson who joined Severfield-Rowen after the merger. Sanderson was to report to Amey legal head Wayne Robertson, taking a team of six Enterprise lawyers to the in-house department at Amey (29 April 2013).

Senior counsel Paolo Steffenini said Amey currently instructed more than ten firms but poured water on the idea of a tender process. He is leading the non-PFI panel review and is on the hunt for regional firms offering low costs.

Despite handing work in the past to DLA Piper, Wragge & Co and Ashurst, Stefanini said none of those firms sat on the formal roster of advisers. He also said CMS Cameron McKenna, Osborne Clarke were not on the panel, though they have been instructed on litigation matters in the past. 

Steffenini said the PFI panel “would be looking at tier one firms, but bearing in mind what PFI contracts come about, very often people are conflicted”.

The company currently instructs Morgan Cole and Pinsent Masons. But Steffenini did not rule out the possibility of moving to a sole legal provider model favoured by Balfour Beatty and Eon.

“Sole provider is something which is flavour of the month and we are looking at seeing what those companies have experienced and whether it works or not. We’re not assuming it’s not suitable, it may be,” he said.

If the company goes ahead with a five to ten-strong panel it will not be formally organised. Instead the company will treat firms as “horses for courses”, he said.

“We get people who are best placed both location wise and experience wise for the particular jobs we require,” he added.

Since Enterprise merged with Amey, the legal team has been reorganised under Robertson. Sanderson has been the only exit but the group has shuffled its lawyers into different teams internally.

The £385m takeover of Enterprise by Spain’s Ferrovial, Enterprise’s parent company, reached completion in April 2013, with Pinsents acting for Heathrow Airport owner Ferrovial and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advising private equity seller 3i.

The acquisition was effectively a combination of Amey with Enterprise, which together have a turnover of £2.3bn and 21,000 employees.

At that time Robertson said the company could look at a formal panel. Robertson joined Amey in 2006 and in 2009 replaced Carol Hui as legal chief following her exit to the British Airport Authority (now Heathrow Airport Holdings) (4 March 2011).