A&O sparks conflict row on United Biscuits deal

Allen & Overy

(A&O) has had to gain conflicts clearance from the Law Society after taking dual instructions on the multimillion-pound auction of United Biscuits.

A&O, led by corporate partner David Wootton, is advising long-term client United Biscuits, the maker of McVitie’s biscuits and Hula Hoops, on its multimillion-pound auction.

However, it has emerged that the firm is also advising on the financing of Premier Foods’ takeover bid for the company.

The revelation follows A&O’s conflict row late last year after the firm took instructions from two clients on the Boots-Alliance UniChem merger and the preconditional sale of Boots Healthcare International.

A&O denied that there was a conflict, although the dual roles were checked with the Law Society.

In a statement, the firm said: “We have no conflict issue which prevents us from acting on these matters and we cleared with the Law Society our approach to this transaction under the new conflict rules.”

Weil Gotshal & Manges London head Mike Francies is leading the advice to Premier Foods, which is heading a consortium that includes long-term client Lion Capital.

However, rival bidder US private equity house Blackstone, advised by Herbert Smith, led by partners James Milne and Mark Geday, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, is being tipped as the favourite.