Wragges chosen to help BA through downturn

Midlands firm gets the nod over Slaughter and May on £1m property portfolio

British Airways (BA) has appointed Wragge & Co to advise on the first tranche of a massive property disposal aimed at limiting the impact of the travel crisis following the terrorist attacks on the US.
The first tranche of four properties is expected to be brought to the market imminently, but BA has yet to confirm whether the disposal will take the form of a straightforward sale or a sale-and-leaseback deal.
The final mix of the properties involved was also under wraps as The Lawyer went to press. It will draw on a £1bn portfolio, which includes: the Fitzpatrick Hotel in New York; flats for staff in Tokyo; a number of UK business parks, including sites at Newcastle and Crawley; and offices, operating properties and engineering and maintenance buildings around Heathrow, Gatwick and Cardiff airports.

“We&#39re acting in connection with the disposal of four properties for BA”
Sarah Thompson, Wragge & Co

The company is engaged in an ongoing review of vacant, underutilised and non-core property within this portfolio. It is looking for opportunities to vacate and sell with minimum operational impact, or lease back to meet operational needs.
BA's legal director Stephen Walsh said that Wragges had to compete with other firms on the company's panel to win the instruction. Wragges does most of BA's property work in terms of volume, but Slaughter and May also advises the company on property and construction.
Walsh said: “Wragges are doing the work we know about at the moment. As far as any further work that comes up is concerned, obviously we'd consider Wragges very seriously, but we'd also consider other firms on the panel, the most obvious of which is Slaughter and May.”
Andersen Legal is also a member of the BA panel.
BA lawyer Owen Highley is leading the property work in-house, working with Wragges property partner Sarah Thompson. Thompson's team specialises in providing management services to investors, corporate occupiers, retailers and the public sector.
Wragges has advised BA on property matters for around three years, covering on and off-airport work and some retail work.
Thompson said: “We're delighted to say that we're acting in connection with the disposal of four properties for BA.”
Thompson recently worked with aviation partner David Lowe on BA's complex renewal negotiations relating to the Eurohub terminal at Birmingham International Airport. Eversheds advised the airport.
The innovative agreements and protocols cover a range of property leases and terminal service management contracts for the next five years. The timespan of the original arrangements had come to an end.