CC gets tight with KKR as it lands Travelex buyout work

Clifford Chance has strengthened its relationship with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) after landing a first-time UK instruction to advise the high-profile US buyout house on the £1bn acquisition of Travelex.

The mandate is a coup for Clifford Chance, because although the magic circle firm has advised KKR on a string of overseas deals, it is understood that this is one of the first major instructions to be handled by Clifford Chance in the UK for several years.

In recent times, KKR has instructed Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s UK office and Herbert Smith, which advised on the private equity house’s 2003 abortive bid for Safeway. However, the house has started to spread its work more broadly, bringing in Slaughter and May to act on the £1.6bn shared bid for UK pharmaceuticals group Warner Chilcott.

KKR is understood to be one of four buyout houses shortlisted to purchase the world’s largest bureau de change business. Travelex’s financial adviser Deutsche Bank has also chosen longstanding Dickson Minto client BC Partners as well as Permira and Apax to proceed to the next round.

According to sources close to the deal, Apax, which jointly owns clothing retailer New Look, has brought in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to advise on the acquisition.

The instruction follows Freshfields’ success in securing a place on Apax’s legal panel alongside Ashurst last June. The creation of the much-anticipated panel saw Apax’s longtime advisers Clifford Chance and Travers Smith Braithwaite knocked off.

Meanwhile, the deal could potentially land Clifford Chance with a dual role, as the magic circle firm also has strong ties with Permira, which is also rumoured to be interested in buying Travelex. Clifford Chance partner Matthew Layton is Permira’s preferred legal adviser.

Dechert is advising Travelex on an instruction that came through Lloyd Dorfman, the former investment banker who founded the company.

Travelex employs 5,000 staff in 34 countries and operates 700 bureaux de changes. Although the company is best known for its foreign currency exchange, it also provides services such as travel insurance and cash handling for hotels and airlines.

A spokesperson for Travelex confirmed that Dechert was advising the company on a strategic review, but added that there was no certainty that the review would result in any change to the present ownership of the company.

Clifford Chance, Dechert, Dickson Minto and Freshfields declined to comment.