The tower of power

Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) new real estate head Robert MacGregor starts today (13 December) and he is hoping to celebrate with the signing of two of his trusted Clifford Chance assistants. This secondary raid has boosted BLP’s hopes that the Canary Wharf account will follow.

“We’ve got the main man and the two assistants who worked on the Canary Wharf account. I’d be amazed if the client didn’t follow,” said a BLP source.

The tetchy “no comment” from Clifford Chance property head Cliff McAuley seems to suggest he fears the worst. Others in the property department were more bullish, claiming that BLP will not challenge them on the finance, securitisation and tax advice they provide to the company.

The final word, though, should go to Canary Wharf’s general counsel Michael Ashley-Brown. “We’ll meet Robert and his team at BLP,” he said. “I wouldn’t be fulfilling my duty to this company if I didn’t have Robert MacGregor as a string to my bow.”

Happy Christmas Robert.

BT on the receiving end

BT received another kicking last week, this time from the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which ruled in favour of Thus and Broadsystem Ventures (BVL) in a dispute about BT Wholesale passing on confidential information to BT Retail.

Herbert Smith head of telecoms John Edwards represented BVL and Thus. The latter was a first-time instruction, which could prove good timing considering the company formerly known as Scottish Telecom is in the midst of a panel review. Eleven other companies also chipped in to fight the case.

The judgment more or less reaffirmed Ofcom’s point that Retail and Wholesale should be separated more effectively. In this case, Wholesale was passing confidential information about competitors to Retail.

BT’s legal team has a fantastic reputation, but the regulatory team looks like it is struggling with the new regulator Ofcom. The competition is taking heart as Ofcom gets to grips with BT’s dominant position in a way that Oftel never did.

Auntie in slimming exercise
The BBC is conducting a separate review of its legal department parallel to the transformation of the company, which was announced last week. The legal department review is focusing on the in-house team rather than the external legal spend, which is not surprising considering general counsel Nicholas Eldred only completed a panel review in March.

However, perhaps a bit more ruthlessness then could have saved some pain now. Bristows, Denton Wilde Sapte, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Linklaters, Lovells, Olswang and Richards Butler all retained their places on the panel. While some jobs are sure to go, the department is likely to escape the worst ravages of the cuts, in which 2,900 jobs are expected to be lost. Programme legal advice, for example, is thought to be working at full stretch and won’t be touched.

“We don’t feel that [the legal department review] is the highest priority. One has to have a legal provision in an organisation such as the BBC,” said a spokesperson.