Macfarlanes builds on Oaktree link with Sara Lee instruction

Macfarlanes has consolidated its fledgling relationship with Oaktree Capital Management after landing its second instruction from the US private equity house.

The firm is advising Oaktree on the acquisition of the European packaged meats business of Sara Lee Corporation for $575m (£311.4m). Oaktree will acquire the business through a 50-50 joint venture with US pork processor and hog producer Smithfield Foods, advised by partners Gary Thomson and Curtis Carlson at Hunton & Williams.

Macfarlanes completed its first deal for Oaktree, advising the private equity house on its £182.2m acquisitions of Nestlé and Treats ice-cream maker Richmond Foods.

It is understood that Macfarlanes secured the mandate for the Richmond Foods acquisition, Oaktree’s first public-to-private transaction in the UK, off the back of the firm’s relationship with Oaktree senior counsel Justin Bickle.

Bickle acted alongside Macfarlanes on the 2004 debt restructuring of hotel group Queens Moat Houses while still at US firm Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. He left the firm’s London office to join Oaktree last September.

Smithfield intends to complete and finance the acquisition on a standalone, non-recourse basis. The company will contribute its Jean Caby business to the joint venture.

Partner Charles Martin, who led the Macfarlanes team, said the deal was interesting because it is relatively unusual for private equity houses to invest alongside trade buyers.

“It’s quite an interesting way forward for private equity houses to get the synergies and expertise that trade buyers can bring to a deal,” he said.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom advised Oaktree on US issues arising from the deal.