Brent Walker demise ends Simmons link

Simmons lucrative seven-year stint keeping Brent Walker alive will finally end next month when the company goes into liquidation following the £700m sale of its last major asset, the William Hill betting shop chain, to Japanese finance house Nomura.

Simmons has been the Brent Walker Group’s principal law firm for more than a decade

It advised the group when its founder, George Walker, led it through heady expansion in the 1980s, and stayed on as adviser to the new board on the restructuring of £1.3bn of debt when Walker was ousted following accusations of fraud.

The firm is believed to have taken £12.5m in fees for this restructuring and received more fees, although not on the same scale, for advising on a restructuring of the ring-fenced William Hill subsidiary in 1994, which alone owed £400m.

Simmons also advised on Brent Walker’s £171m sell-off of the Pubmaster chain last year.

Brent Walker will use the £700m from the William Hill sale to pay off some of its £1.4bn debt, but it will still be left owing around £500m. It has announced that it will go into liquidation following completion of the sale, expected in mid-November. But shareholders, whose shares are trading at less than a penny, will not be asked to vote on this. Simmons insolvency partner John Houghton is advising the board on the liquidation.

Simmons contact partner for Brent Walker, banking partner Charles Goodall, refused to comment on the level of fees charged by the firm. He said shareholders had been issued with a circular which explained that the company was still insolvent and would not satisfy the conditions of a stock exchange listing, even after the William Hill sale.

A team led by Goodall and other contact partner Chris Wilkinson, and a Cameron McKenna team advising Nomura, led by corporate partner Richard Price, had only nine days from when Nomura was named preferred bidder to draw up the sale contract ready for approval on 9 October.

Wilkinson denied the loss of such an important client was a blow for the firm. He said: “It will be the end of an era to some extent, but when one door closes another one opens.”