Freshfields set for Apax triumph

Apax Partners has restarted a stalled plan to form a legal panel for £100m-plus buyouts undertaken by the leveraged transaction group.

The review looks set to hand Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer a victory in its attempts to hike private equity and could drop many of the existing legal advisers.

Apax created a two-firm panel of accountants last year, with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as primary adviser and Ernst & Young as second string adviser. It has used numerous legal advisers recently, so if a two-firm system is adopted many will inevitably be disappointed.

Freshfields is understood to have a shot at the top role, thanks in part to a strong relationship between Apax and Bruckhaus, which will be key in cross-border deals.

Ashurst and Clifford Chance are also contenders, but have lost ground with Apax over recent years. Travers Smith Braithwaite and Weil Gotshal & Manges have strong links, but have weaknesses in international reach and London size respectively.

The panel will not affect smaller deals. Apax partners in industry sectors will not be bound by it. Partner Stephen Green is running the panel review, with firms due to beauty parade next month.

Apax was unavailable for comment.