CC and SJ Berwin lead as British Land buys 17 Virgin sports clubs

Clifford Chance and SJ Berwin scooped headline roles as British Land acquired 17 Virgin Active racket clubs for £179m from health club chain New Esporta Holdings.

The portfolio of freehold and leasehold clubs was sold through a share sale agreement in a rare venture by British Land into the health clubs industry.

Clifford Chance corporate real estate partner Adrian Levy advised Esporta, which is controlled by French bank Société Générale (SocGen).

On the real estate side Esporta was advised by Fladgate, an adviser to the client for a number of years.

Partner Mark Saunders led the team, with help from partners James Fry and Matthew Williams, and associate Kahu Simmonds.

SJ Berwin real estate partner Edward Page was the relationship partner for longstanding client British Land, with assistance from associate Richard Lloyd. Partner Delphine Currie and associate David Fitzgerald gave corporate advice.

The scoop represents a crystallisation of SJ Berwin’s role as adviser to British Land on retail deals, thanks to a close relationship with British Land executives who worked with Page in previous roles at AXA.

While the firm has previously advised British Land on supermarket deals, this is only SJ Berwin’s second mandate from the company’s shopping centre team, which also encompasses health clubs.

The team advised British Land on its £30m acquisition of the Green Lanes shopping ­centre in Barnstaple earlier this year.

Shepherd and Wedderburn, which has a longstanding relationship with British Land in Scotland, advised the company on the acquisition of two Scottish properties that made up the portfolio. The team was led by partner Nick Ryden.

Senior associate Alan Hughes was part of a Dundas & Wilson team acting for Esporta on the Scottish properties.

British Land will let the 17 properties on new 25-year leases to Virgin Active ­pending the Office of Fair Trading’s approval of Virgin Active’s acquisition of Esporta from SocGen.
Clifford Chance advised Esporta’s management on SocGen’s disposal of the business, while SNR ­Denton acted for Virgin.

Linklaters advised ­SocGen.