Founder opts for Jones Day on PizzaExpress bid

If PizzaExpress founder Luke Johnson and colleague Ian Eldridge are successful in their recommended bid for PizzaExpress, Jones Day Gouldens will be in with a great chance of gatecrashing the company's two-firm panel of Pinsent Curtis Biddle and McClure Naismith.

When PizzaExpress received several approaches last year, a committee of independent directors was formed to consider them. The committee unanimously recommended a £263m offer from Venice Bidder, a consortium of Johnson, Eldridge and ABN Amro Capital.

Berwin Leighton Paisner partner Anthony Grossman is advising the committee of independent directors after PizzaExpress company secretary Patrick Hartrey appointed him ahead of Pinsents and McClure Naismith. However, if the Venice Bidder offer is unconditionally successful, the independent directors will resign. Once Johnson and Eldridge take their places on the board, Berwin Leighton's role will effectively be over.

Jones Day Gouldens partner Daljit Singh has been advising Johnson for a year. Johnson founded PizzaExpress with partner Hugh Osmond before floating the company in 1993. Since then, Johnson has been involved in a wide variety of projects, including Intrinsic Value, a quoted investment fund, and internet incubator NewMedia Spark. In 2002, Johnson used his investment vehicle Pinco to take private Signature Restaurants, owner of the Belgo chain, The Ivy and Le Caprice.

Head of M&A and private equity Charlie Geffen is leading the Ashurst Morris Crisp team advising ABN Amro Capital, a longstanding client. Financial adviser Hawkpoint Partners, advised by Andrew Sheach of CMS Cameron McKenna, made the bid on behalf of Venice Bidder.

Clifford Chance partners James Johnson and Alan Inglis are advising Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC on debt financing.

Clifford Chance partner Jonny Myers advised Johnson's former partner Hugh Osmond on a potential bid, a move which is now thought to be unlikely. Osmond turned to Clifford Chance when regular adviser Slaughter and May was conflicted on the failed Travelodge deal and continued with the firm on bids for Center Parcs and PizzaExpress. But Slaughters won back the client with instructions on Sun Capital's £7bn bid for Six Continents.