Matheson Ormsby resolves conflict to bag Eircom deal

Dublin firm Matheson Ormsby Prentice has helped push Valentia's bid for Eircom over the finishing line, despite originally turning down work for the consortium over a conflict of interest.
The firm advised the head of the Valentia consortium Sir Tony O'Reilly in relation to the regulatory aspects of the deal. The telecoms regulator and the Depar-tment of Enterprise, Trade & Employment both raised concerns about O'Reilly's existing interests in the telecoms sector.
O'Reilly is chairman of Matheson Ormsby, and asked the firm to represent the Valentia consortium when it decided to bid for the privatised fixed-line operator Eircom. However, the firm had to turn down the work because it acted for Vodafone in the purchase of Eircom's demerged mobile division Eircell, and the work went to rival firm A&L Goodbody. However, Vodafone was happy for Matheson Ormsby to be involved once there was no further need for negotiations with the seller.
A team led by corporate partner Pauline O'Donovan and Helen Kelly from the regulatory group advised O'Reilly in relation to undertakings given by him on competition issues. O'Reilly is chairman and shareholder of Independent News & Media, which holds a 50 per cent share in Chorus, an Irish cable television and telecoms company. Although the Chorus telecoms operations are limited at present, the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment felt that it had the potential to become a major player.
The department accepted O'Reilly's undertakings without referring to the Com-petition Authority, the first time it has ever done so. The political decision not to refer is not without its critics, who fear that the influence held by O'Reilly has the potential to seriously hamper the telecoms industry, which is a major plank in Ireland's economy.
However, the ease with which the transaction has gone through is a clear victory for Matheson Ormsby, which will be happy to have gained some crumbs of work from the O'Reilly connection.