Ashurst sees rare Apax success fees after HIT Entertainment bid

Ashurst has won its first UK deal for Apax Partners following its appointment as lead legal adviser, acting for the private equity house on its recommended offer for HIT Entertainment, the company behind Bob the Builder.

Although Ashurst has won the lion’s share of Apax’s legal work since its appointment last June, the vast majority of deals on which it has advised have collapsed.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which won a role as Apax’s secondary adviser, has received just one instruction in the public domain – on Apax’s bid for Travelex. However, Apax won its £1bn bid for Travelex, the world’s largest bureaux de change business.

Apax pays out a success fee on a winning bid, but the private equity house expects a fee discount of more than 10 per cent from its panel firms on aborted deals.

Meanwhile, Ashurst is currently advising Apax on its controversial bid for Woolworths. After the initial bid was rejected outright by the high street retailer’s board, Apax was forced to raise its bid to £843m on 18 March.

The City firm also advised Apax on the Premier Lodge bid, but missed out to trade buyer Whitbread, although it did win Apax’s bid for Dutch media group PCM.

As first revealed by The Lawyer (14 June 2004) Ashurst and Freshfields knocked out long-time advisers Clifford Chance and Travers Smith Braithwaite to win their panel places.

From January, Freshfields has had to share its Apax work with Weil Gotshal & Manges, which was later appointed to the buyout panel, as revealed by The Lawyer (14 February).

Freshfields, which is trying to bolster its private equity offering, missed out on an instruction from Apax on the Woolworths deal because of a conflict. Freshfields corporate partners Edward Braham and Mark Trapnell are advising long-standing client Woolworths.

HIT, which confirmed Apax’s offer on 21 March, is being advised by longstanding adviser Olswang.

Client relationship partner Charlie Geffen is leading the Ashurst team. Olswang partner Paul Blackmore is advising HIT.

Meanwhile, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is advising Apax on debt financing, which is being funded out of the US, with Shearman & Sterling acting for Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank.