Ethel Austin turns to Eversheds for sell-off

Eversheds has received its first instruction for the management of clothing retailer Ethel Austin thanks to a referral from Deloitte & Touche corporate finance.

Deloittes’ partner Paul Lupton recommended Eversheds Manchester partner Edward Pysden for Ethel Austin’s £122.5m buyout by ABN Amro Capital in a deal that suggests that private equity’s appetite for the retail sector is undiminished.

Eversheds’ Manchester rival Hammonds advised Ethel Austin’s management on a 2002 buyout by Lloyds TSB Development Capital. Pysden declined to comment on this, but said: “We’re just glad to get the instruction.”

Other roles on the deal went to the usual advisers. ABN Amro Capital, ABN’s private equity arm, bought a 56 per cent stake in Ethel Austin and was advised by CMS Cameron McKenna corporate partner Andrew Sheach. The City firm has advised ABN on a range of management buyouts, including Duke Street’s £225m secondary buyout of health and beauty company Accantia last December.

DLA corporate partner Neal Shepherd advised Lloyds TSB on its exit – the firm also advised Lloyds on its original £55m investment in the retailer.

North West firm Hill Dickinson reprised its role for long-term client the Austin family with partner Peter Bullivant advising on the deal. The Austin family sold its 7.5 per cent shareholding in Ethel Austin. The management team reinvested the majority of the shareholding and owns 37 per cent of the company.

Pysden said the deal was notable for its co-operative atmosphere. He said: “We decided to start with documentation, which was likely to be reasonably acceptable.”

However, Pysden explained that he did not expect to be Ethel Austin’s first choice adviser in the future, saying the work would probably go to Camerons.