Linklaters scoops Terra Firma as CC conflicted

Linklaters has scooped Terra Firma’s mandate on its proposed £100m rescue plan for Le Meridien after its magic circle rivals were conflicted out.

Although Linklaters advised on the setting up of the Terra Firma fund, it is Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that have been most active for financier Guy Hands’ vehicle. However, Clifford Chance is acting for Le Meridien, a relationship that goes back to the firm’s role advising Nomura’s principal finance unit on the financing of the highly leveraged £1.9bn buyout of the hotel chain two years ago.

When Hands left Nomura to set up Terra Firma, he retained management control of Le Meridien. Clifford Chance’s dual role for the company and Terra Firma has not been an issue until recent weeks, when it became clear that the two interests were diverging.

Clifford Chance restructuring specialist Nicholas Frome is leading the team, while Richard Price and Louise Wallace at CMS Cameron McKenna continue to advise on Le Meridien’s asset sales to raise money. Linklaters head of restructuring Robert Elliot is leading for Terra Firma.
Freshfields also has a historic involvement in the deal, having advised vendor Compass Group. By the time Clifford Chance’s conflict on the restructuring became clear, Freshfields had already been brought in by the junior debt holder, Lehman Brothers. In an interesting twist, David Ereira won the role after Lehman decided to replace Slaughter and May in line with its current policy of switching advisers if a deal runs into trouble.

Allen & Overy partner Gordon Stewart is continuing to advise the senior debt banks, led by CIBC World Markets and Merrill Lynch. Royal Bank of Scotland has also been drawn into the fray because it arranged the £1bn sale and leaseback of some of the hotel assets. Berwin Leighton Paisner has hung on to the mandate, which is further evidence of its increasingly strong relationship with Royal Bank of Scotland.