Ashurst and Weil bag £1bn Premier deal

Ashurst and Weil Gotshal & Manges have scored the lead roles on the £1bn approach for RHM by Premier Foods.

A combination of the two companies would create the UK’s biggest food company with estimated annual sales of £2.5bn.

Ashurst is advising longstanding client RHM, the makers of Mr Kipling cakes and Hovis Bread, on the friendly takeover approach.

Corporate partner Richard Gubbins is leading Ashurst’s team with competition partner Roger Finbow. The firm has been RHM’s preferred counsel since summer 2005, when it advised on the disposal of Golden West Foods to East Balt Guenther Holdings board on the company’s London flotation.

Premier instructed Weil Gotshal on its bid, with UK managing partner Mike Francies leading the team. Francies also headed the advice to Premier on its bid for United Biscuits (UB) in September. Premier, which owns the Branston and Amrosia brands, bowed out of the running for UB, which eventually went to a private equity consortium comprising Blackstone and PAI for £1.6bn.

Herbert Smith and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett teamed up to advise the successful bidders in that auction.

Premier is the larger of the two companies, with a market capitalisation of £1.3bn, since it acquired Campbell’s soup for £460m in July. Francies and corporate partner Ian Hamilton also headed a Weil Gotshal team advsing Premier on that deal.

Slaughter and May have won a role on the RHM bid by advising Rothschild, Premier’s financial advisers. There had to be cash confirmation as part of the £1bn approach. RHM’s financial advisers are Credit Suisse and Citigroup, which have not instructed firms.