WINNER: SJ Berwin
It SJ Berwin's competition team has gone from strength to strength in the past year, working on a number of cutting-edge cases culminating in Universal Music Group's (UMG) £1.2bn acquisition of EMI's global record business. The transaction was described as “one of the most difficult discussions in my life as commissioner for competition” by Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. One category judge, faced with the complexity of the deal, asked simply: “How did they pull it off? It must have required a lot of skilled advocacy.”
The team was led by partners Stephen Kon and Phillipp Girardet with support from associates Christophe Humpe, Michael Reiss, Mark Hills, Caroline Selman and trainee Naomi Inns. Despite a highly contested negotiation of commitments in the EU, SJ Berwin ensured its client retained more than two thirds of EMI globally, keeping in particular the iconic EMI Records and Virgin Records labels as a roster of global superstars such as The Beatles, Katy Perry and Emeli Sandé. The case threw up a number of complex issues on the role of record labels in an increasingly digital market and set a legal precedent, with SJ Berwin obtaining a trail-blazing decision from the hearing officer that enabled lawyers in a merger case access for the first time to a data room set up by the Commission's chief economist's team.
About Brick Court Chambers
Competition Law is synonymous with Brick Court Chambers; for over 30 years Members of Chambers have been at the cutting edge of Competition Law. In sponsoring the Competition Team of the Year Members of Chambers are pleased to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the innovative and groundbreaking work of all the firms shortlisted for this year’s award.
2ND: Burges Salmon
Burges Salmon utilised its wealth of experience in the bus sector to successfully defend a damages claim of £55m against Cardiff Bus as part of an eight-year battle with low-cost competitor 2 Travel. The Burges Salmon team was led by head of competition Laura Claydon with managing partner Peter Morris. A successful outcome in this case was made all the more critical because the survival of Cardiff Bus depended on it.
Through thorough forensic, factual, economic and accounting analyses of all the available evidence, Burges Salmon was able to prove that the launch of Cardiff Bus's loss-making low-cost services had not damaged 2 Travel. A number of judges picked up on feedback from the client as to the humanity, commitment and diligence that was demonstrated by Burges Salmon in handling this case. The entry demonstrated “authenticity” and “a genuine interest in client care”, according to one judge on the panel.
3RD: Herbert Smith Freehills
Herbert Smith Freehills secured a major victory for Sky against Ofcom's pay-TV sports decision in one of the largest appeals ever to come before the Competition Appeal Tribunal. The firm's competition team, led by Stephen Wisking and assisted by associates Andrew North, Joanne Jary, Tamara Todorovic and Helen Stokes, succeeded in overturning Ofcom's decision to force Sky to make Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels available to rivals on terms set by Ofcom. One of the judges said: “HSF have shown themselves to have the intellectual capacity to work through a vast array of facts and factual evidence. Sky will continue to set the bar for many years to come.” The appeal included 35,000 pages of submissions and evidence and testimony from 41 witnesses, including 14 experts.