Milbank lands star seat to act for Apax in billion-dollar satellite deal

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy has scooped a key role advising new client Apax Partners on its billion-dollar buyout of satellite operator Inmarsat.

Milbank has teamed up with Clifford Chance to act for joint bidders Apax and Permira, which have been granted preferred bidder status by Inmarsat.

Milbank is handling both due diligence and regulatory reviews. But it has also been given a secondary role to represent Apax’s interests in discussions between the private equity house and Permira.

Apax turned to Milbank because of its expertise in the satellite industry. Partner Crayton Bell is leading the law firm’s team with industry advice from New York-based satellite finance partner Peter Nesgos.

The London team includes key lateral hire Tim Emmerson, who joined from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in April, and US-qualified M&A partner Michael Goroff. While Clifford Chance is sometimes instructed by Apax, the firm’s relationship with Permira is virtually exclusive unless the magic circle firm has a conflict.

Clifford Chance has been Permira’s preferred adviser since it launched as Schroder Ventures in the late 1980s. The relationship was further reinforced when Clifford Chance partner Ian Sellars, a founder of the firm’s private equity practice, quit to join Permira seven years ago. Clifford Chance’s Permira relationship partner Matthew Layton is lead adviser on the bid.

A consortium of Soros Private Equity Partners and Apollo Management, advised by Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, is the only other possible bidder.

Skadden’s London office won the work through its stateside relationship with Apollo, although the private equity house has so far done little in the UK.

Although Skadden has previously undertaken instructions for Soros Group, this could be a valuable introduction to its private equity arm. The work is a good result for the US firm, which brought Lovells private equity partner Allan Murray-Jones on board in 2001 to help service its US private equity client base on European deals.

London-based UK partner John Adebiyi is leading the team advising the consortium with partners Murray-Jones and Mark Darley.

Emmerson’s former partner at Freshfields, Simon Marchant, is advising long-term client Inmarsat. The firm has been acting for Inmarsat since 1993.

The company attempted an initial public offering in 2001, with Freshfields on board, but market conditions prevented it, ensuring a long saga which looks like it will conclude with this auction.