Ashurst passed over as supermarket returns to long-term adviser

Ashurst has missed out on the mandate to advise Wm Morrison Supermarkets on the disposal of 19 stores to Waitrose.

Although Ashurst successfully steered Morrisons through the lengthy battle to take over Safeway, the Yorkshire-based supermarket chain instructed long-term adviser Gordons (formerly Gordons Cranswick) on the disposal. Ashurst has been retained to give competition law advice.

Ashurst corporate partner Paul Gadd, who advised Morrisons on the Safeway takeover, said: “Of course we would have liked to have got corporate instruction, but we don’t regard this as a snub. We recognise that because of the strength of relationship Morrisons have with Gordons, it is likely to turn to Gordons first.”

Gordons commercial property partner Ian Errington, who is leading the team advising Morrisons, said: “I’d like to think Morrisons came to us because of our ongoing relationship.”

The sale of the 19 stores is the first tranche of disposals required by the undertakings given to the Office of Fair Trading by Morrisons last December in relation to the Safeway takeover. The value of the deal is undisclosed but the aggregate book value of the net assets attributable to the stores is £158m.

Lovells is acting for Waitrose.