Freshfields there for Phoenix as it mulls CVC takeover bid

Zombie life assurance fund Phoenix Group Holdings has turned to long-time legal adviser Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for advice on its takeover talks with CVC Capital Partners.

The board of Phoenix Group Holdings issued a statement in response to press speculation on 20 November confirming that the company, the biggest manager of closed life insurance funds, was mulling a bid from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners after takeover talks with insurance investor Resolution collapsed.

Phoenix, which is valued at £950m, said in a statement that it “is continuing to consider whether CVC’s approach may form the basis of an offer that is appropriate to recommend to Phoenix’s shareholders, although there can be no certainty that any approach will lead to an offer being made”.

The company added that it had received other approaches.

Freshfields financial ­institutions partner Robert Stirling, who is the firm’s relationship partner for Phoenix, is leading on the mandate along with ­corporate partner Jonathan Baird.

Phoenix has been a client of Freshfields for a long time; Stirling advised Pearl Group (as Phoenix was then) on its highly leveraged £4.5bn acquisition of ­Resolution plc in 2007 (The Lawyer, 17 October 2007). More recently he advised Phoenix on its £800m float (The Lawyer, 7 June 2010).

Allen & Overy (A&O) is advising CVC Capital ­Partners.

Before engaging with CVC, Phoenix had been in takeover talks with Resolution Ltd, which reportedly offered £1.2bn for the ­company. Resolution Ltd was established by Clive Cowdery, who also founded Resolution plc, the company Pearl Group (as Phoenix was then) bought in 2007.

Slaughter and May, a longstanding adviser to veteran entrepreneur Cowdery, advised Resolution Ltd on its failed bid. Corporate partners Kathy Hughes and Richard Smith led for Slaughters on the deal.

On 21 November, following the announcement that Phoenix was mulling takeover offers, the company’s share price rose 11.8 per cent to around 550p.

A&O and CVC Capital Partners declined to ­comment on the matter.