Five firms in frame as Vue cinema chain is sold to Doughty Hanson

A quintet of firms led by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom have landed the prize mandates on the sale of the Vue cinema chain – the third largest in the UK – to private equity house Doughty Hanson.

David Innes
David Innes

Corporate partner Laurie McFadden, supported by finance partner David Trott, led the Freshfields team acting for Vue Entertainment on the £450m deal.

McFadden led the Freshfields team that acted on the original management buyout (MBO) of the cinema operator in 2006, when ­private equity duo Boston ­Ventures and Clarity Partners sold their holdings to a management team led by chief ­executive Tim Richards.

Skadden advised longstanding client Doughty Hanson, fielding a team ­featuring relationship ­partner Allan Murray-Jones and counsel Julie Bradshaw on the M&A side, and banking partner Mark Darley on the debt financing aspects of the transaction.

The Vue management team, which will net a ­payout reported to be around £70m, turned to Travers Smith. Private ­equity partner David Innes took the mandate in what is likely to be his valedictory deal ahead of an impending move to Debevoise & ­Plimpton. Innes also acted on the 2006 MBO on behalf of the management team.

Clifford Chance acted for the group of banks financing Doughty ­Hanson’s acquisition, led by Nomura, while DLA Piper real estate partner Anita Weightman advised Vue on the property aspects.

“It’s a great business in a fun industry,” said Innes. “They’ve been a terrific management team, both in terms of what they’ve achieved and in acting for them.”

The deal will give Vue the financial clout to fun further expansion, with reports suggesting that raids on rivals Cineworld or the ­combined Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group could be in the offing.