Freshfields cements Wilson Bowden ties with sale mandate

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, has scored a lead role on the £2.1bn scramble for developer Wilson Bowden.

Wilson Bowden, one of the UK’s leading housebuilders and developers, has instructed longstanding advisers Freshfields in what have been confirmed as preliminary takeover talks with a number of parties. Corporate partner Gareth Stephenson and counsel James Davis are leading the Freshfields team, while HSBC is acting as financial adviser.

The magic circle firm’s relationship with Wilson Bowden dates back to the company’s 1987 flotation, while Freshfields also acted on the company’s April 2006 purchase of Roland Bardsley Homes for £49.5m. Ashurst has won a role advising David Wilson, who maintains a 22 per cent stake in the company as part of a 33 per cent family trust holding. Wilson founded the company with his father in 1961. Should a £2.1bn offer be successful, Wilson’s personal share would be £462m.

Ashurst London corporate head Adrian Clark is leading the team, while financial advisers NM Rothschild & Sons are reviewing the Wilson family’s holding.

Although at press time nothing more than preliminary talks were confirmed, Barratt Developments reportedly made a £2.1bn offer for its rival. It is understood that Barratt has instructed a Slaughter and May team headed by relationship partner Kathryn Davis. Slaughters also has a longstanding relationship with its client. Barratt’s financial adviser is UBS.

However, Barratt will not be alone in its interest for Wilson Bowden, with George Wimpey, Redrow and Bellway widely believed to be in the running.

Linklaters and Dickinson Dees are longstanding advisers to Redrow and Bellway respectively, but a conflict may arise because George Wimpey traditionally instructs Slaughters.