Wendel Investissement work follows Linklaters star to Weil

Linklaters star to Weil” />Weil Gotshal & Manges’ Paris office has won a new client on the back of last November’s high-profile hire of Linklaters private equity star David Aknin.

Aknin is advising Wendel Investissement, a former Linklaters client, on its €660m (£436m) acquisition of 60 per cent of publishing house Editis from Lagardère. He advised Wendel on its mammoth €4.9bn (£3.23bn) acquisition of Legrand in 2002, but this is Aknin’s first piece of work for the private equity house since his move to Weil Gotshal.

Like the Legrand disposal, the Editis deal was the result of an antitrust ruling by the European Commission, which retrospectively forced Lagardère to sell off the bulk of one of its acquisitions. Aknin called the deal “a unique opportunity to take a large position” in the French publishing market.

Lagardère was advised on the deal by Olivier Assant and Elena Baxter, partners at the company’s longstanding corporate law firm Bredin Prat.

The publishing house first bought Editis – formerly Vivendi Universal Publishing (VUP) – from the Vivendi Universal Group in December 2002 using a mechanism peculiar to French M&A.

VUP was initially sold to Natexis under Article 35A of European antitrust regulations to speed up the sale. Under this rule, Vivendi sold VUP to Lagardère via Natexis, a bank which effectively acted as a clearing house, pending EU approval.

However, the Commission stipulated that Lagardère had to dispose of 60 per cent of Editis to comply with competition law.

The company, France’s largest publishing house, already owns Hachette Filipacchi, which produces magazines including Elle. In retaining 40 per cent of Editis, Lagardère will control publisher Larousse, as well as a number of smaller operations.

The deal received approval from the EU Competition Authority on Friday 30 July. Approval has also been obtained from the German competition authorities. Once the French and Belgian authorities have made a decision, the sale can be finalised.

Slaughter and May Paris finance partner Andrew McClean and tax partner Pierre-Pascal Bruneau are advising Wendel, a longstanding Slaughters client, on the financing aspects of the deal.

Hachette announced on Tuesday 3 August that it had completed the purchase of WHSmith’s Hodder Headline for £223m. Linklaters corporate partner Mark Stamp acted for WHSmith, with Clyde & Co advising Hachette.