Freshfields out as Dorsey lands Pearson instruction

Dorsey & Whitney’s London team has barged aside Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to secure its first instruction for Pearson, the UK’s largest media and leisure group

Partner John Byrne led the Dorsey team advising Pearson on its £20m joint venture with examining board Edexcel. The firm won pitches for the corporate and property aspects of the deal.

The work is a coup for Dorsey client contact partner Michael McFall. Freshfields has traditionally been Pears-on’s choice for corporate work (together with Herbert Smith) as well as for property advice.

Recent instructions for Wragge & Co provide further proof that Pearson head of legal Gary Rink is spreading the net beyond his usual property advisers Freshfields and Denton Wilde Sapte.

Dorsey’s involvement is a legacy of the media giant’s acquisition of US company and Dorsey client NCS a year ago. The joint venture, to be called London Qualifications, is effectively a Pearson acquisition. London Qualifications will take over all of Edexcel’s responsibilities, which include GCSEs, A-levels, NVQs and diplomas. Pearson paid £20m for a 75 per cent stake in the venture, while Edexcel will contribute staff and courses in return for its remaining 25 per cent stake.

Berwin Leighton Paisner advised Edexcel, which is unsurprising considering partner David Segal’s presence on the board of the registered charity.

The charity has had a troubled time. Together with other examining boards it was at the centre of the A-level marking scandal and reported an operating loss of £7m in 2001.