Pinsents advises Rare on £239m sale to Microsoft

Pinsent Curtis Biddle has been chosen as adviser to games company Rare on its complex acquisition by US giant Microsoft after fending off competition from two Birmingham-based firms.
The $375m (£239m) deal involved tense negotiations between Japanese console giant Nintendo and Microsoft, over the rights of certain games the target company designed for Nintendo in the past. Nintendo owned a 49 per cent stake in Rare.
The rest of Rare was owned by three brothers from the Stamper family, who set up the company from their bedroom in 1985.
The acquisition is seen as giving Microsoft a boost in the race against Nintendo to knock Sony off its perch as the leading global games console maker, a position it dominates with its PlayStation product.
Last year, Microsoft launched its Xbox console to a lukewarm reception in Europe and the Far East, before Nintendo unleashed its GameCube system on the market.
The rights in the arrangement between Rare's majority shareholders and Nintendo meant that once the Japanese group had decided not to buy the company, it was forced to concede the software house to its bitter rival Microsoft.
Commenting on the complexities, Pinsents partner Andrew Hornigold said: “The most difficult thing was trying to maintain friendly relations between the exiting management team and fierce competitors Nintendo and Microsoft.”
The relationship between Nintendo and Rare stretches back to 1995, when the Japanese group acquired a stake in Rare, which yielded best-selling games such as Donkey Kong Country.
Pinsents won the client after undergoing a beauty parade against two unnamed firms. It was involved in sorting out the intellectual property (IP) problems caused by games jointly developed by Rare and Nintendo. The problems revolved around the characters, which are quite often involved in more than one game, raising questions over their use in future software. More than seven years worth of games had to be analysed in-depth to decide where the IP rights lay.
Pinsents worked closely with Greg Marks from US firm Greenberg Traurig, which was advising Rare on local law.
On the other side, Denton Wilde Sapte, led by Simon Brown, acted for Microsoft, which has been a long-term client since the early 1990s when the firm advised it on its investment in the publishing house Dorling Kindersley, which is now owned by media giant Pearson.
The US software giant also received advice on US law from Preston Gates & Ellis, of which Bill Gates Snr, father to Microsoft's founder, was one of the original partners.