Linklaters, Clifford Chance in the cold on Telegraph bid

Linklaters, Clifford Chance in the cold on Telegraph bid” />The Telegraph Group auction has thrown M&A lawyers into a frenzy, but the corporate teams at two magic circle firms – Clifford Chance and Linklaters – are the few lawyers not involved.

The Hollinger deal has turned into the biggest bonanza for a year (see box) and, thanks to a web of conflicts, several firms – most notably Allen & Overy (A&O) and Nabarro Nathanson – have scored key roles. A&O has scooped Cinven, a house historically close to Ashurst and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, while Nabarros’ role for Collins Stewart is its most high-profile deal in years.

Linklaters accepted a peripheral litigation role early on and was therefore conflicted when the auction got going. The firm declined to comment on the nature of the instruction.

Clifford Chance has not been instructed on the deal and key client Apax Partners has turned instead to Mike Francies at Weil Gotshal & Manges. Many of Apax’s other advisers were already conflicted, but even a strong relationship with Clifford Chance private equity partner David Pearson was not enough to pull Apax in. Francies is thought to have impressed Apax on the massive Yell transaction.

The good news for Clifford Chance is that Hollinger may have kickstarted the City. Last Friday (13 February), the firm announced two major deals: PizzaExpress’s £225m counterbid for Ask Central, on which it is advising Capricorn Ventures, and Apax’s £700m bid for New Look.

Ask Central is the latest twist in the war between Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May over Hugh Osmond. Slaughters advised Capricorn on its acquisition of PizzaExpress last year through an Osmond connection and even did the work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis (The Lawyer, 12 May 2003).

The Telegraph Group auction is expected to proceed to a second round next week, but there is still time for a wild card. An uncommitted bidder, such as a US private equity house, could still short-circuit the auction and launch a US public takeover bid for parent company Hollinger International.

Hollinger runners and riders

Key Players
Barclay brothers

Skadden Arps (Morris Kramer)
Lovells (Marco Compagnoni)
Ravelston/Conrad Black
Sullivan & Cromwell
Hollinger International
Paul Weiss (Judith Thoyer)
Herbert Smith (Anthony Macaulay)
The Telegraph auction
Lazard, Hollinger International’s financial advisers

Slaughters (Stephen Cooke)
The Telegraph
Simmons (Nick Benwell)
First round bidders
Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail and General Trust)

Freshfields (Julian Long)
Allen & Overy (Alan Paul)
Northern & Shell (Daily Express)
Ashurst (Simon Beddow)
Weil Gotshal (Mike Francies)
Collins Stewart
Nabarros (Iain Newman)
Macfarlanes (Charles Martin)