Ashurst faces Kirkland in tapas bidding war

Ashurst and Kirkland & Ellis are going head-to-head as their respective clients are locked in a bidding war for tapas restaurant chain La Tasca.

Ashurst client Tragus, which is owned by private equity house Blackstone, made a £96m recommended bid yesterday (28 March) for the AIM-listed restaurant, which is being advised by Dickson Minto.

But property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz’s investment vehicle R20 has countered that with a rival £98m bid, working with Icelandic bank Kaupthing.

Kirkland partner Raymond McKeeve is advising Tchenguiz, a client McKeeve brought with him to the US firm when he left Linklaters last April along with private equity partner Graham White. Eversheds partner Stephen Nash is leading a team advising Kaupthing on the joint approach.

R20 and Kaupthing had made a previous bid for La Tasca at 190p a share prior to Tragus’s approach. But now that Tragus’s bid is recommended, it is understood that Tchenguiz will take his 188p-a-share offer directly to shareholders.

Meanwhile, Ashurst’s relationship with Tragus, whose brands include Café Rouge and Bella Italia, dates back to January 2005, when the firm acted for Legal & General Ventures on its purchase of the chain. The team on the La Tasca bid is being led by private equity partner Bruce Hanton and senior associate Gavin Gordon.

Most recently, the pair teamed up with Finers Stephens Innocent to advise Tragus on its £14.14m acquisition of Ma Potter’s restaurants (The Lawyer, 5 March).