West Coast Capital's interest in the retail sector could provide KLegal and Olswang – two firms not best known for public M&A – with the legal work on a hostile takeover bid.
KLegal's Scottish firm McGrigor Donald is currently advising West Coast and Scottish venture capitalist Tom Hunter on the acquisition of shares in Allders. Olswang is advising the rival suitor for Allders, Scarlett Retail.
Scarlett Retail is already well ahead of Hunter – it had a £158m offer accepted by the Allders board last year. The consortium is 60 per cent owned by property company Minerva, backed up by Lehman Brothers, which is advised by Weil Gotshal & Manges, and former Bhs chief executive Terry Green, advised by Manchester firm Wacks Caller. Allders is relying on its usual corporate adviser Macfarlanes.
Minerva has been a key Olswang property and corporate client since its formation in 1990. The firm's chief executive Jonathan Goldstein has a close personal relationship with Minerva's chief executive Andrew Rosenfeld, and Goldstein is leading the deal for both Minerva and Scarlett Retail.
Minerva's main interest is in Allders' property portfolio. The retailer's flagship store is the anchor tenant at Park Place in Croydon, which the property company desperately wants to develop. Minerva will relocate the Allders Croydon branch as part of the agreed deal.
However, should Hunter manage to acquire a 7.5 per cent stake in Allders, he could prevent the board from forcing minority shareholders to accept the Scarlett Retail offer, leaving the way open for a West Coast hostile bid.
KLegal's relationship with West Coast comes through McGrigor Donald, which has worked for Hunter since he instructed the firm on the sale of the business of Sports Division to JJB Sports three years ago. He used McGrigors to set up the West Coast fund and it has acted for it ever since. The firm acted on West Coast's failed bid for retail property group Grantchester last year.
The Allders client relationship partner is Colin Gray, but London partner Ian Binney is also involved. Hunter's interest in retailers is not confined to Allders – he is also using KLegal for talks with ailing department store chain House of Fraser, represented by Slaughter and May.