Linklaters has teamed up with its former alliance firm in the Netherlands, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, to advise a consortium of banks mooting a rival approach to ABN Amro, a move that could lead to a break-up of the Dutch banking giant.
Interest from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Santander and Belgo-Dutch insurance group Fortis comes just as exclusive exploratory talks between ABN and Barclays are drawing to a close.
RBS has instructed Linklaters while Santander and Fortis turned to Linklaters' former Dutch ally De Brauw. The two firms broke off merger talks in 2002 after a divergence of opinions on strategy.
ABN and Barclays have until Wednesday (18 April) to draw up a potential £80bn deal before their exclusive period of discussion ends.
RBS is one of Linklaters' longstanding marquee clients, with head of financial restructuring Robert Elliott managing the relationship. The firm declined to comment.
The members of the rival consortium each have their own designs on parts of ABN's businesses, with RBS interested in ABN's US operations and its London-based wholesale banking, Santander looking to acquire ABN's Brazilian and Italian offerings and Fortis looking to consolidate in the Netherlands.
Activist hedge fund The Children's Investment Fund (TCI), which has built up a stake just shy of 3 per cent in ABN, has threatened the bank with legal action if it does not give the consortium the same access as Barclays.