Freshfields pips SJ Berwin to lead role on British Land’s first REIT

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has handed a hefty blow to SJ Berwin’s corporate and tax teams, scooping the much sought-after mandate to advise British Land on its conversion to a real estate investment trust (REIT).

Freshfields first advised British Land last year on its £811m acquisition of Pillar Properties after SJ Berwin was conflicted out of the deal. (The Lawyer, 30 May 2005)

Freshfields corporate partner Julian Long, who led the Pillar acquisition, leveraged off that relationship to secure the corporate work on the REIT conversion, expected to go live January 1, 2007.

SJ Berwin have been appointed to handle the property work on British Land’s billions of assets which will be poured into the REIT.

SJ Berwin property partner David Ryland said: “We are very actively involved in a number of aspects for British Land.”

Freshfields London tax head Sue Porter and finance partner David Ereira are working alongside Long on the conversion.

Land Securities has appointed long-standing corporate adviser Slaughter and May to handle its corporate and tax work ahead of its planned REIT conversion. Slaughters tax partner Steve Edge is understood to be leading the advice.

Nabarro Nathanson, Land Securities long-standing property adviser, has maintained its relationship by securing the property work for the conversion.

The property-focused firms’ lack of corporate strength was seen as a decisive factor in the appointments.

“It’s a corporate listing, an IPO – these property firms were always going to be hard up against it because you need the relationship with the investment banks, and they just don’t have that,” commented one source close to the property industry.

Herbert Smith, led by corporate partner David Patterson and tax head Neil Warriner, secured the first REIT conversion mandate, advising long-standing client Hammerson (, 9 May 2006). Herbert Smith is handling both the corporate and property aspects of Hammerson’s conversion with real estate partners Don Rowlands and Chris de Pury advising.