FTSE rankings trigger Lovells-Freshfields row

A bitter row has broken out between Lovells and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer over the firms’ relationship with ITV, as the latest statistics from Hemscott Group reveal that Lovells has just four FTSE100 clients.

ITV has confirmed to The Lawyer that both firms advised the FTSE100 media giant on the aborted takeover approach from a consortium that included Apax and Goldman Sachs.

Some Lovells sources are insisting that the firm was the sole legal adviser on the takeover and that Freshfields was nowhere to be seen.

One Lovells source said: “Some people are saying that we weren’t involved or that we played a secondary role. That isn’t true. ITV instructed us on the bid. We were at the board meetings.

“Freshfields is making snooty remarks in relation to the Goldman bid approach. I would have thought it was below their dignity.”

A Freshfields source insisted the firm was now a key adviser for ITV, despite the Hemscott rankings not listing them as such.

It has since transpired that Lovells was the lead adviser on the Goldman bid, while Freshfields advised on peripheral aspects of the deal.

ITV is one of Lovells’ trophy clients alongside drinks giant SABMiller. The firm also acts for British American Tobacco and Prudential, according to Hemscott.

In constrast, Freshfields, which ranked number three in the Hemscott league table, acts for 20FTSE 100 clients.

Freshfields won ITV as a new client last year after it advised the independent broadcaster on its delisting from the New York Stock Exchange.

Since then the magic circle firm’s relationship with ITV has gone from strength to strength and in December 2005 it advised the company on its acquisition of Friends Reunited.

Lovells’ stranglehold over ITV is a result of head of corporate finance Hugh Nineham’s longstanding legacy with broadcaster Granada. Nineham advised Granada on its £4bn merger with Carlton.

Freshfields and Lovells declined to comment.