Stadlen’s BCCI heroics is his launch pad to the elite

Takeover talk between Eon and Scottish Power has the same public perception as the advancement of renewable energy technology: it’s going on, it’s in the background and no one is really sure if they will see anything useful come from it during their lifetime. In a recent exclusive interview with The Lawyer (31 October), Eon’s UK general counsel Fiona Stark (pictured) put the kibosh on rumours of takeover talks between the two companies, claiming that the media was fuelling the rumours. Stark said Eon preferred Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for its corporate work, but Freshfields counts Scottish Power as a longstanding client and in this instance is understood to have accepted instructions from the target company. Eon is understood to have turned to New York giant Shearman & Sterling for M&A advice. If the deal went through, Eon would have a 28.5 per cent market share of the UK energy market, while rival Centrica has a 38 per cent share. Involvement by the regulators therefore seems inevitable.

Telefonica looks local for advice on Endemol float
Fresh from announcing its record-breaking £18bn takeover of UK mobile phone operator O2, Spain’s Telefonica announced that it was planning to float subsidiary Endemol, the television production company behind such cultural delights as reality TV show Big Brother. It could have been expected that the work would have gone to one of the two firms handling the O2 takeover, Clifford Chance or Simmons & Simmons. But it looks like Telefonica is going to opt for domestic firms. Spanish firm Garrigues looks set to play a role. It has represented Telefonica on past deals and commercial partner Mónica Martin de Vidales is the former general counsel of the telecoms company. Nauta Dutilh is also reported to be involved on the Dutch float, no doubt helped by M&A partner Jaap Jan Trommel’s role as boardroom counsel to Endemol. The float on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange is expected to value Endemol at a maximum of €1.5bn (£1.01bn). Telefonica paid €6bn (£4.06bn) for Endemol in 2000. Garrigues and Nauta Dutilh declined to comment.

Things are looking pretty good for Nicholas Stadlen QC at the moment. The Fountain Court Chambers silk has spent the last decade fighting the Bank of England’s epic legal battle with the liquidators of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Now that it’s all over (barring the costs hearings) he can begin to capitalise on the reputation he has built up.

Stadlen was first instructed by the Bank of England in 1991, when Lord Justice Bingham’s inquiry into the collapse of BCCI was underway. The liquidators’ claim against the Bank of England was not launched until 1993, but Stadlen was kept on and has been leading the bank’s fight all the way.

The instruction came just as Stadlen was appointed silk following a 14-year stint as a junior building up a practice in commercial and banking litigation. At the time he was in the middle of supporting Lord Grabiner QC in the Atlantic Computers case for the administrators of British & Commonwealth Holdings. That was another piece of litigation which dragged on for years, and by its end Stadlen had taken over as lead silk.

But BCCI was to dominate the new QC’s practice to the extent that his other cases during the past 15 years have been predominantly short, sharp actions, such as the 1996 strike-out application in Deeny & Ors v Gooda Walker Ltd & Ors.

Through the many BCCI hearings and the additional cases he has undertaken, Stadlen has developed a reputation as a solid, intelligent silk. City litigation sources describe him as cerebral, thorough, a perfectionist and a pleasure to work with. He is certainly one of the best-prepared barristers around. The 7,000-word, hour-long statement he delivered on 2 November following the announcement by Essex Court Chambers’ Gordon Pollock QC that the liquidator, Deloitte, was discontinuing its case had been written in advance in anticipation of such an occurrence.

Of course, for Stadlen an hour’s speech is nothing. Earlier this year he sat down after delivering a 119-day opener for the Bank of England, responding to Pollock’s 80-day opening statement – the longest speech ever to have been made in an English courtroom, and a record that does not look likely to be broken soon. He came with experience of length – an opening speech he made in the Atlantic Computers case lasted more than 30 days.

But Stadlen has not traditionally been thought of as a ‘supersilk’ in the mould of Pollock, Grabiner or Brick Court Chambers’ Jonathan Sumption QC. That now looks set to change, with an empty diary ready to be filled with instructions once the bank’s indemnity costs order has been dealt with. He is armed with an endorsement from Mr Justice Tomlinson, who praised Stadlen’s opening speech in glowing terms after the collapse of Deloitte’s case.

Tomlinson J said: “I also wish to say publicly that, in my judgement, a huge contribution to this litigation has been made by you, Mr Stadlen. You addressed me at enormous length on the documents in this case, as a result of which I had a far better understanding than I might otherwise have had, had I had to study those documents on my own.

“Your address to me was a tour de force, if I may say so, and no doubt it is something for which your clients are deeply grateful, but I am deeply grateful to you for your very great assistance given to me throughout this case.”

If Stadlen aided Tomlinson J well, he in turn was also well supported. The team of five barristers backing up Stadlen in court included two other more junior silks. Mark Philips QC, a member of insolvency set 3/4 South Square, was instructed before being appointed silk in 1999. Bankim Thanki QC, like Stadlen a Fountain Court tenant, was also involved prior to being made silk.

The collapse of BCCI ought to bring benefits over and above a deserved satisfaction at winning for all the Bank of England’s counsel, as well as for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. For Stadlen, membership of the bar’s £2m-a-year club must surely be on the horizon.