Deals Comment

Freshfields, Osborne Clarke bag Friends Reunited sale

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Osborne Clarke were the winners in ITV’s £175m acquisition of the Friends Reunited website. Freshfields acted for ITV, having picked up its first instruction from the broadcaster earlier this year when it delisted. The firm elbowed aside regular counsel Lovells and bypassed the panel. Osborne Clarke, led by Adrian Bott (pictured), has previously advised the webiste on its acquisition of and the 1901 Census business. Friends Reunited’s regular counsel, three-partner Smiths, had to pass this time. Friends Reunited is the leading reunion website in the UK and Australia.

Six pharma companies await SFO’s fraud decision

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is understood to be considering prosecuting six pharmaceutical companies for alleged price-fixing, with several UK competition lawyers preparing for the worst. It is understood the drugs companies could face unprecedented fines for allegedly conspiring to defraud the NHS of more than £100m. It is alleged that the companies involved – Kent Pharmaceuticals, Norton Healthcare, the Goldshield Group, Generics UK, Ranbaxy Laboratories UK and Regent-GM Laboratories – tampered with prices between 1996 and 2001. They all deny the allegations. Kingsley Napley is understood to be advising Generics UK, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary the Goldshield Group and Brachers Kent Pharma. Crime boutique Garstangs is representing Regent-GM after Herbert Smith pulled out when Regent-GM became insolvent last year. If found guilty, they could face multimillion-pound fines, and the executives (who cannot be named) could each be sentenced up to 10 years in prison. Lawrence Graham has secured work from pharma companies being cross-examined by the SFO. The criminal investigation was launched in April 2002, but charges have yet to be laid. The investigation is running parallel with civil claims brought by the NHS. Peters & Peters has been instructed to act for the NHS.