Reed Smith wins UK Bebo role on AOL deal

The London office of Reed Smith Richards Butler has won a minor role in a major US technology deal, handling UK issues on AOL’s acquisition of Bebo.

Reed Smith senior associate Gregor Pryor said the firm was drafted in to help on UK issues given the reach of Bebo’s business in the UK.

“Bebo is a Silicon Valley company but in the way it developed it didn’t get much traction in the US while in the UK it went crazy,” he said. “We helped where we could on this deal with UK-specific elements, which was largely due diligence.”

AOL has agreed to buy the social networking site for $850m (£420.63m) in cash with the aim of establishing a foothold in the world of social media. Bebo has around 40 million users and the acquisition will give AOL direct access to them.

The deal was led out of Silicon Valley, where Bebo is based, with Weil Gotshal & Manges partners Kyle Krpata and Dick Millard advising Bebo’s owners, husband and wife team Michael and Xochi Birch. AOL turned to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett Palo Alto partner Peter Malloy and associate Ted Frankel. Herbert Smith partners Gavin Davies and Nick Elverston handled the UK side of things for AOL while Australian matters were dealt with by Allens Arthur Robinson partner Ian McGill.

As reported in The Lawyer (10 December 2007) Pryor represented Bebo last year when it entered into an open media content-sharing agreement with a raft of partners such as CBS, MTV, ESPN, BBC, Channel 4, ITN and Yahoo!. As part of that arrangement the media partners were able to share content with Bebo’s online community.

Last month AOL bought UK internet marketing company Buy.at under advice from Herbert Smith’s Davies. Buy.at was sold by venture capital fund DFJ Esprit, which was advised by Morrison & Foerster corporate head Paul Claydon and partner James Gubbins.