18 February 2002
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3 October 2013
It's the kind of Machiave-llian tale that journalists dream of. The impact of Manish Chande's and Peter Walicknowski's shock decisions to quit their positions as directors at Land Securities (LandSecs) is still being felt, refuelled by the story that Chande and long-time business colleague Martin Myers had approached WestLB to launch a takeover bid. As the ensuing upheaval continues to play out across the business pages, lawyers are assessing what it could mean for them. But as a client, LandSecs was already changing dramatically before all of this.
In keeping with the need to modernise the business - which originally brought Trillium boss Chande and ex-Lend Lease man Walicknowski on board - the way in which LandSecs outsources its legal work has begun to be overhauled. After more than 50 years, Nabarro Nathanson is still the company's main property and corporate adviser, currently led by partner Keith Hutcheson. Playing second fiddle, Lawrence Graham has a similarly long association with the company.
But LandSecs is breaking away from having its legal needs virtually single-sourced by putting work out to tender. Legal manager Clive Ashcroft is now lining up beauty parades to open things up and ensure the best deals by heightening competition. To match developments in other areas of the company, LandSecs is thinking more laterally about its legal needs. The clearest evidence of this came last month when, after a competitive tender, Dechert was appointed on LandSecs' £825m retail warehouse portfolio, with Ciaron Carvalho and Stephen Fogel beating off Lovells, Lawrence Graham and two others.
Incidentally, Dechert takes over the files not from Nabarros, but from Finers Stephens Innocent. One LandSecs insider said there was concern that Finers could no longer offer sufficient backup. It is this kind of opportunity to reassess that Ashcroft will be looking for elsewhere in the business.
Other additions to the company's list of advisers have been slightly less deliberate. As it began to abandon its conservative approach for a more aggressive stance, its corporate activity has introduced new firms. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Lovells gained entry through LandSecs' acquisition of Goldman Sachs' Whitehall vehicle Trillium in late 2000. This prompted some internal discussions, as neither firm was on the panel, but both have since retained a good foothold.
Indeed, when Project Warren (BT's huge outsourcing and a play on the name Warren Beatty) came along, Freshfields was instructed despite the fact that it started very much as a LandSecs deal rather than a Trillium one. The contract was eventually won by a joint venture of LandSecs, Trillium and the William Pears Group, advised principally by Freshfields.
The big question for Freshfields is what impact Chande's departure will have on its LandSecs relationship. The Freshfields team, fronted by partners James George, Jeffrey Rubinoff and David Ereira, is closely identified with Chande and Myers. With all the press speculation about takeover bids, the team may make LandSecs proper feel a little nervous.
The Lovells relationship is perhaps less politically sensitive. It was appointed prior to the Trillium acquisition to advise on the joint bid by the LandSecs and Trillium partnership for London Underground's property portfolio because Freshfields was conflicted out. Lovells, too, managed to turn to its advantage LandSecs' acquisition of its client Whitecliff Properties from Blue Circle early in 2001. Lovells partner Dion Panambalana has retained the Whitecliff work.
Other firms to have benefited from LandSecs' recent pursuit of new partnerships include Eversheds, recommended by Hammerson to advise the Birmingham Alliance, which comprises LandSecs, Hammerson and Henderson Global Investors, on the Bullring development. Niche firm Maxwell Batley also got in on the act after LandSecs bought the 30 Gresham Street site from its client Gresham Street Developments. Partner Michael Cassidy put his connections with LandSecs chief executive Ian Henderson and his experience at the Corporation of London to good use and kept much of the work.
These firms are now hoping for a bigger slice of the cake. What goes out to tender next is very much Ashcroft's call, but he can be sure that plenty of hungry mouths will be waiting.