Poor old Allen & Overy (A&O). Slaughter and May was under the spotlight as Alliance-Boots general counsel Marco Pagni gave the firm the ne plus ultra of instruction – the £10bn management buyout backed by Clifford Chance client Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) – leaving Alliance-Boots’ other panel firm A&O in the wings. The two firms had been battling it out to see which would be the high street giant’s favourite, favourite, favourite firm.
What’s more, A&O had been tantalisingly close to an instruction on the financing side too, with one bank, understood to be JPMorgan, wanting to use A&O. But the recommendation came too late, with Linklaters already having been instructed.
In this instance the chance of turning a job down on a conflict would have been a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Not that conflicts seem to matter too much on this deal: Merrill Lynch made the very unusual move of happily crossing the floor, from being broker for Alliance-Boots to advising its deputy chairman Stefano Pessina and KKR, reportedly with Alliance-Boots’ blessing.