A&O on both sides of Cordiant deal for WPP

As predicted by The Lawyer last week, Allen & Overy (A&O) lawyers sat on both sides of the negotiating table when WPP, the exclusive bidder for Cordiant, agreed to acquire the majority of Cordiant’s debt.

An A&O corporate team led by partner Mark Gearing represented Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP, with a banking team led by Peter Schulz acting for Cordiant’s lenders. The group acting for WPP also involved one lawyer from the banking department.

It is understood that some of Cordiant’s US lenders raised concerns about the firm acting on both sides of the deal, a practice unheard of under US conflict rules.

One source close to Cordiant said: “Some of the US banks did raise their eyebrows. You’d never find this situation occurring in a US firm. They wouldn’t even think of trying.”

An A&O spokesperson said: “Separate teams within A&O advised WPP in relation to its bid, and the lenders to Cordiant in relation to the sale of their debt to WPP. The respective clients agreed to A&O’s involvement in the transaction and the firm’s procedure for dealing with circumstances of this nature was fully adhered to.”