SJ Berwin conflict hands British Land’s Pillar offer to Freshfields

SJ Berwin conflict hands British Land’s Pillar offer to Freshfields” />Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has muscled in on longstanding SJ Berwin client British Land after advising the property investment company on its £811m recommended cash offer for Pillar Properties.

British Land turned to Freshfields corporate partner Julian Long because SJ Berwin set up all the unit trusts that Pillar has interests in so was conflicted out of the deal. It sees British Land, already the UK’s largest property investment company by assets, grow even further, with the company owning or managing £10bn worth of retail assets after the deal is completed.

Flagship properties owned by Pillar in the City of London include CityPoint on Ropemaker Street, the home of Simmons & Simmons and French firm Gide Loyrette Nouel.

British Land, meanwhile, owns properties such as the Broadgate development next to Liverpool Street Station and Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield.

British Land chief operating officer John Weston Smith told The Lawyer that Freshfields “were the right people for this deal”, adding that the company instructs several law firms.

However, SJ Berwin has advised British Land on the largest number of high-profile transactions in recent years, and in March advised the company on the £2.1bn refinancing of the Broadgate estate.

In the same month, SJ Berwin acted for British Land on a sale-and-leaseback of retailer Debenhams, with Freshfields acting for Debenhams.

Norton Rose corporate finance partner Barbara Stephenson acted for Pillar, a longstanding client of the firm, on the deal. She acted on Pillar’s flotation in 1994 and has advised the company ever since.

The transaction is taking place through a scheme of arrangement, valuing Pillar at 855p per share, with an alternative choice of loan notes for Pillar’s shareholders.

Due diligence was carried out for Pillar by Jones Day and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.