Last year Taylor Wessing fought off stiff competition to win the award for Real Estate Team of the Year at The Lawyer Awards, in association with Travelers. This year our external panel of judges, currently in the process of reviewing the submissions, has narrowed the potential winners for this category down to a shortlist of seven firms.
The final shortlist comprises Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Burges Salmon, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Hogan Lovells, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), Mayer Brown and Nabarro. Here, we take a first look at the seven shortlisted firms’ submissions.
Berwin Leighton Paisner
BLP has been nominated for its work advising The Croydon Partnership on the £1bn redevelopment of the Whitgift shopping centre and the surrounding area. The partnership is a joint venture between Westfield and property developer Hammerson.
The scheme involves the redevelopment of the Whitgift centre into a mixed-use scheme. The development will include 136,500sq m of retail space, 16,400sq m of leisure facilities and between 400 and 600 new homes.
BLP has advised the partnership on all planning and compulsory purchase order (CPO) matters since 2012.
The real estate team had its hands full defending the development plans, which led to a judicial review of the planning permission being successfully dismissed in the High Court in 2014. A legal challenge against the CPO was also successfully defended.
Following a six-week inquiry the CPO was agreed in September 2015.
Head of planning Tim Hellier led the team involved on The Croydon Partnership, while the day-to-day management was handled by associate director Paul Grace.
The team at Burges Salmon made it onto the shortlist for its work on the £271m disposal of a portfolio of UK student accommodation properties for Ahli United Bank’s (AUB) student accommodation fund.
Although the deal was not the largest in terms of pure value to take place last year, the team was forced to overcome a number of major technical hurdles in order to secure it. One such issue was ensuring the anonymity of its Middle Eastern investor during the sale of the Guernsey-based property fund. For real estate partner Richard Read and his team this posed a number of problems regarding the seller’s warranties, which could not be valued due to its anonymity.
“Here you had a seller that was absolutely insistent on its anonymity and so it simply could not give warranties as it risked having its identification exposed,” says Read.
“So at the very outset the idea was floated and agreed upon that a warranties and insurance (W&I) policy would be negotiated and provided by an insurer in lieu of warranties by a seller.”
Although W&I policies are now more commonplace this was one of the first real estate deals to have incorporated one and has set a precedent for them to be used more widely.
The technicalities were also increased due to the deal requiring Sharia-compliant financing. This meant that the financing structure had to be firstly created and then collapsed during the sale structure; this needed careful project management to avoid the deal falling through.
Herbert Smith Freehills
The highlight of the year for Herbert Smith Freehills’ real estate team was advising London & Continental Railways (LCR) on the £371m sale of its interest in the King’s Cross Central Partnership.
The partnership is responsible for the development of King’s Cross Central, the 67-acre site between King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. LCR is a Government-owned subsidiary that sold its interest in the partnership to Australia’s largest pension fund AustralianSuper.
“King’s Cross is a great example of a world-class regeneration project in the centre of London and we’re very proud to have worked on it since the mid-1990s”
Real estate partner Julian Pollock and corporate real estate associate Paul Chases led the team. For HSF the deal was particularly important as it marked the culmination of two decades of advising LCR. This included acquiring the site for the Department of Transport and advising on the construction of a rail link from the Channel Tunnel exit to St Pancras station.
“King’s Cross is a great example of a world-class regeneration project in the centre of London and we’re very proud to have worked on it since the mid-1990s,” says Pollock. “We’ve seen it grow from one of the worst parts of London to a vibrant neighbourhood.”
The deal was technically innovative as the team had to find a way of mitigating the Government’s legacy liabilities.
Hogan Lovells advised the BBC on the sale and subletting of BBC Media Village in West London. The team described the work as “the most complex single-site property deal ever undertaken by the firm”.
The sale of the property was part of cost-cutting measures introduced by the BBC after the broadcaster found it had a high level of unused office space.
The sale of Media Village reduced vacant office space from 9.3 per cent to 2.6 per cent. The deal was valued at £87m and allowed the broadcaster to make £33m in annual savings.
Real estate partner Oliver Chamberlain led Hogan Lovells’ team. He was assisted by partner Dion Panambalana and senior associates Gerard Tomnay and Paul Edwards.
Media Village, or White City Place as it is now known, is vital to the UK’s critical broadcasting infrastructure, meaning that the underlease agreement was fundamental to the deal.
“A lot of the terrestrial TV programmes for the UK pass through a building or buildings at Media Village,” says Chamberlain. “It was very important for the BBC that they not only had guaranteed occupation for the next 20 years but also that they had broadcast continuity for 20 years.
“This, coupled with the fact that it is going to be a development site, because Stanhope and Mitsui Fudosan are going to be developing about 800,000sq ft of office accommodation, meant that we had to make sure that neither the broadcast continuity nor the power supply would be threatened in any way.”
King & Wood Mallesons
KWM has been shortlisted for its work as principle legal adviser to British Land on the redevelopment of 5 Broadgate. The 700,000sq ft office is the largest single office letting in the City and will become the London headquarters of UBS upon its completion.
During the development period private equity house Blackstone decided to sell its 50 per cent interest in Broadgate. This led to KWM creating a parallel joint venture between British Land and Blackstone to protect the interest of Singaporean sovereign fund GIC from the risks of the development. This meant that two joint ventures had to run together while the redevelopment was taking place.
In order to make sure that the different teams working on the deal operated effectively, a separate website was developed to allow each party to access information and update developments in real time.
Real estate partner Darren Rogers and corporate partner Michael Goldberg led KWM’s legal team. They were assisted by real estate partner Patrick Williams, tax partner Heather Corben, and corporate partner Delphine Currie.
Mayer Brown’s real estate team has been shortlisted for a number of deals that it has carried out across the year.
These include advising The Silvertown Partnership on the £3.5bn redevelopment of Silvertown Quays in London’s Docklands, advising Crosstree Real Estate on its 50/50 joint venture with The O2 arena owner AEG, and acting for Lipton Rogers Developments on the funding for the development of 22 Bishopsgate.
The firm also advised Canadian property group Brookfield on the acquisition of Center Parcs’ five holiday villages from Blackstone Group. The deal was the first instance of Brookfield investing in a UK leisure industry.
“This is much more about business planning over the next two to three years and making sure the asset works for that”
Jeremy Clay acted as the lead partner during the deal and was assisted by corporate partners Jeremy Kenly and Kate Ball-Dodd, construction partner Tim Nosworthy, planning and environment partner Michael Hutchinson, and tax partner Sandy Bhogal.
After Blackstone considered floating the business it was eventually sold for £2bn to Brookfield following a competitive auction process. For Clay’s team much of the work involved understanding how the assets and the business would work with Brookfield’s business strategy.
“What you’re really looking for is an alignment between what you’re buying and the client’s business plan,” says Clay. “So you have to understand the plan and then you have to make sure that the real estate works with that plan.
“This is much more about business planning over the next two to three years and making sure the asset works for that.”
Nabarro’s real estate team was involved in the two of the market’s largest pre-let agreements, which both took place at The International Quarter (TIQ) in Stratford.
With projects valued at £2bn and planning consent for 4 million square feet of offices, TIQ is one of the largest Olympic legacy development projects underway.
Nabarro acted for Lendlease during the deals that saw the Financial Conduct Authority and Transport for London (TfL) agree to take 425,000sq ft and 265,000sq ft of office space in the quarter respectively.
“The FCA moving from its headquarters to a new area of London is a huge leap of faith in Stratford”
Head of real estate and newly appointed firm-wide senior partner Ciaran Carvalho led the team on the deals.
His team included real estate partners Nicholas Vergette and Chris Oakley, construction partner Alistair McGrigor, tax partner Kirsten Prichard Jones, corporate partner Darren Stolzenberg and infrastructure partner James Snape.
For Carvalho, the deals provided a chance to be part of the creation of a major new London district. “These are really important occupiers and anchor tenants that establish the development,” says Carvalho.
“Once people see things coming out of the ground, the scale of these buildings and lots of people onsite, it will really make a difference to the future of Stratford.
“The FCA has been in Canary Wharf for 20 years – the regulator being able to move from its headquarters to a new area of London represents a huge leap of faith in Stratford.”
The Lawyer Awards takes place on 29 June at its new venue, the Intercontinental O2 in London. For the full list of shortlisted firms, go to: TheLawyerawards.com/shortlist