Linklaters wins Northern & Shell work

Linklaters & Alliance is joining Ashurst Morris Crisp as a main corporate adviser to Northern & Shell after acting on its £125m purchase of Express Newspapers.

It is the first time that Northern & Shell, which publishes OK!, has used Linklaters as its main corporate firm. Its usual firm Ashursts was conflicted out due to representing its client United News & Media.

According to Northern & Shell’s head of legal Maninder Gill, Commerzbank, the company’s financial adviser, recommended Linklaters, which put together a 31-strong team under the leadership of senior corporate assistant Olivia McKendrick.

Gill says: “Basically Commerzbank thinks very highly of Linklaters, especially in the M&A field.”

Gill says that while the company will maintain its relationship with Ashursts, which is advising the company on its proposed flotation, he will strongly consider instructing Linklaters in the future.

Ashursts has been involved with United News & Media’s Express Newspapers since 1977 when it acted for Trafalgar House on its takeover of Beaverbrook Newspapers.

Ashursts’ 13-strong team is led by corporate partner Chris Ashworth with assistance from senior lawyer Andrea Fessler. Dresdner Kleinwort Benson acted as financial adviser.

The sale of Express Newspapers by United News & Media has been the focus of constant press speculation since the company offloaded its television interests in August this year.

Other contenders for the newspaper group were the Hinduja Group, Barclays Brothers and Daily Mail & General Trust. However, the deal between Northern & Shell and United News & Media was closed after just four weeks.

Commerzbank, represented by Clifford Chance, provided £97.5m worth of backing for the deal.

Gill says that Northern & Shell was in talks with a number of banks, but says: “We needed to move fast on the deal and Commerzbank were willing to come in.”

Ashursts says the transaction went through so swiftly because it was unconditional in that there was no need to refer it to the Competition Commission. Under regulations set out by the Office of Fair Trading, deals involving companies both owning newspapers are automatically referred, but because Northern & Shell produces magazines the offer was unconditional.