Le Meridien deal sees BLP, RBS cosy up

Berwin Leighton Paisner

(BLP) has strengthened its relationship with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) after quietly completing the biggest letting deal this year in UK real estate: the re-letting of seven hotels previously leased by troubled Clifford Chance client Le Meridien.

While press attention has been on the restructuring of the Terra Firma-controlled £1.9bn international hotels business Le Meridien, The Lawyer can reveal that RBS has found new tenants for seven of the 11 hotels.

RBS bought 9 of the hotels from cash-strapped Nomura Principal Finance Group, now Terra Firma, in a £1.2bn sale-and-leaseback deal two years ago. The two biggest were owned by Terra Firma, but RBS lent money against them with a form of hybrid mortgage.

The deal helped Nomura fund its £1.9bn buyout of Le Meridien from Compass. However, this July Le Meridien breached its lease by defaulting on rental payments after talks with its senior creditors, led by CIBC World Markets and Merrill Lynch and junior debt holder Lehman Brothers.

RBS then had to put Grosvenor House and the Waldorf into administrative receivership and look for new tenants for all the UK hotels.

Two weeks ago it completed an auction for seven of the hotels. It is now at a preferred bidder stage for the other four. It has relet London’s Grosvenor and the Shelbourne in Dublin to Marriott International and the Waldorf to the Hilton Group. Marriott and Hilton are being advised by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and SJ Berwin respectively.

Meanwhile, Troy Management will separate Le Meridien Russell Hotel in London, Le Meridien Palace in Manchester, Le Meridien Metropole in Leeds and Le Meridien York. Troy Management, run by Tony Troy, the former UK and Ireland managing director of Le Meridien, was advised by McDermott Will & Emery’s London corporate head William Charnley.

The BLP team was led by RBS relationship partner Simon Kildahl. Clifford Chance partners Nick Frome and Johnathan Hall are advising Le Meridien. Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are advising the senior and junior creditors respectively.