Shearman & Sterling nabs Bridgepoint

Shearman outflanks CC, Links, Travers Smith for work

Shearman & Sterling is making its presence felt in the City, squaring up to magic circle firms and muscling in on key relationships. The US firm is understood to have attracted private equity (PE) house Bridgepoint, an outfit that has traditionally taken advice from Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Travers Smith. While the European mid-market PE house has instructed many firms, it has always kept the three particularly close. 

General counsel Charlie Barter told The Lawyer recently: “We’ve used 80 firms in the past year including Latham & Watkins, Garrigues, Zhong Lun, NCTM, Kirkland & Ellis and Mannheimer Swartling. We don’t go to any old firm – we have our favoured ones.” 

However, for the PE house’s next fund, Barter seems to have taken a fresh look. 

Unsurprisingly, Travers Smith remains a go-to adviser on UK matters – Barter is an alumnus. The PE house has turned to the firm on multiple UK deals including its acquisitions of First Credit in 2004, Tunstall in 2005 and Cambridge Education Group in 2013. 

At Clifford Chance, Jonny Myers is Bridgepoint’s first point of contact, but it also had links with PE partner Kem Ihenacho who recently left for Latham. Both Myers and Ihenacho have led transactions for Bridgepoint individually, as well as working together on the acquisition of sports goods retailer Wiggle in 2011. 

Bridgepoint’s other go-to magic circle firm, Linklaters, fielded a number of partners on transactions, including Charlie Jacobs on the 2007 acquisition of Gambro Healthcare. However, it is thought former partner Ian Bagshaw, now at White & Case, struck up a particularly close relationship with the PE house, taking the lead for its portfolio company Quilter in its bolt-on of Cheviot Asset Management in 2012. 

Between them, the three firms have swept up most of Bridgepoint’s UK work, with DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Dentons, Allen & Overy, Ashurst and Latham among the those earning instructions with a more Continental bent. 

So what’s changed? 

Sources suggest that Barter, inspired by the departures of Ihenacho and Bagshaw, went prowling for new advisers, kicking off a tender process to narrow its key counsel down to just two. 

Travers Smith, it seems, was a shoo-in for one of the spots. And while firms including Linklaters and White & Case are all thought likely to have pitched, Shearman  secured the position as the second key adviser for UK or global work. 

Shearman has not been instructed by Bridgepoint in the past, but relatively new PE partner Mark Soundy, who joined from Weil Gotshal & Manges in 2013, walked in with ready-made ties to the client. In recent years he has advised on its sales of Environmental Resources Management and All3Media among others.