Herbert Smith and Norton Rose join US firms on Virgin Atlantic stake sale

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and Norton Rose have won advisory roles alongside American firms on an agreement that sees US carrier Delta Air Lines buy a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways from Singapore Airlines for $360m (£224m).

Martin Coleman
Martin Coleman

The deal will see Virgin and Delta share costs and revenues on routes between the UK and North America, creating a combined trans-Atlantic network which will offer up to 31 round-trip flights a day, 23 of which will operate from London Heathrow.

Delta, which paid $360m for the stake compared to the £600m that Singapore Airlines paid for it in 1999, turned to the New York offices of US firm Cravath Swaine & Moore and the London office of Norton Rose for legal advice. The Cravath team was led by corporate head Scott Barshay and fellow corporate partner George Schoen, with antitrust partner duo Christine Varney and Yonatan Even and tax partner Lauren Angelilli also advising.

Norton Rose also advised the US airline out of London with a team led by corporate partners Chris Pearson and Chris Randall, with regulatory advice led by Martin Coleman. They advised alongside tax partner Louise Higginbottom and IP partner Mike Knapper, who provided brand-related advice.

Richard Branson
Richard Branson

HSF and US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett advised Virgin. HSF London corporate specialists Gareth Roberts and Robert Moore were the lead partners, with competition advice from HSF City partner Kim Dietzel.

US outfit Shearman & Sterling advised Singapore Airlines with a team that included corporate partner James Comyn in Abu Dhabi, antitrust partner Trevor Soames in Brussels and London tax partner Iain Scoon.

Virgin Group and its owner Richard Branson will retain the majority 51 percent stake in the airline and Virgin Atlantic Airways will retain its brand and operating certificate.

Background to this deal:

Both HSF and Simpson Thacher have worked for Virgin Atlantic in the past, together representing the airline in a criminal probe by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) into the pricing of fuel surcharges.