Weil called in to restructure UK food giant’s £1.7bn debt

Weil called in to restructure UK food giant’s £1.7bn debtThe London office of Weil Gotshal & Manges has picked up the lead role on the restructuring of Premier Foods’ £1.7bn debt burden.

Weil corporate partner Ian Hamilton is understood to have been drafted in
by Premier Foods, which ­produces Hovis bread and Mr Kipling cakes.

Premier’s debt was built up in part by the acquisition of rival food company RHM in early 2007. Weil also advised ;Premier ;on that occasion, although it declined to comment on the latest deal. Allen & Overy (A&O) is understood to be advising the company’s main bankers, Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland, on the restructuring.

Premier has hired Goldman Sachs to work on its debt package, while the banks have called on Deloitte. Neither firm is thought to be receiving external legal advice.

Shares in Premier have fallen more than 80 per cent in the past year as fears mount over the state of its finances.

A large part of its debt is the result of its £1bn ­purchase of RHM last year. Weil UK managing partner Mike Francies advised ­Premier on the transaction, with Ashurst representing ­longstanding ;client RHM.

The Ashurst team was led by corporate partner Richard Gubbins alongside IP partner Roger Finbow.

Francies also helped Premier buy the Campbell Soup Company for £460m in 2006, with Hamilton also working on the deal. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner Martin Taylor advised Campbell.

Both Weil and A&O have been involved in restructurings as the financial crisis bites. Weil restructuring ­partner Harvey Miller has scored a leading role
on Lehman Bank’s US ­insolvency proceedings.

Premier is one of the largest food groups in the UK, with a group turnover of more than £2.5bn and ownership of brands such as Bisto, Ambrosia and Sharwood’s.