Herbert Smith and Skadden lead as Abramovich buys into Russian metal maker

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and US firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom were among the lead advisers on a deal that sees Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich’s investment company acquire a stake in Russian metal producer Norilsk Nickel.

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich

Millhouse Capital is set to acquire a 7.3 per cent share in the company for an undisclosed amount to end a long-running battle between shareholders Interros and Rusal, which have agreed to suspend all legal disputes.

Skadden advised longstanding client Abramovich and Millhouse on the acquisition, fielding Moscow corporate finance partner and office co-head Alexey Kiyashko, Moscow corporate partner Linda Davies and London-based corporate partner and European chief Bruce Buck, the chairman of Chelsea FC.

Interros was advised by HSF Moscow corporate partner Tomasz Wozniak and Debevoise & Plimpton Moscow corporate partner Alan Kartashkin.

Russian firm Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners advised Rusal, putting forward firm chairman Dimitry Afanasiev and fellow partner Robin Wittering, both of whom cover corporate and disputes out of the Russian capital.

The parties said in a statement that they expected all disputes and claims to be settled in full once the terms and conditions of the deal have been fulfilled.

Vladimir Potanin, who controls Interros, will become CEO of Norilsk Nickel following the transaction. However, Abramovich is seen as a neutral figure capable of reducing Interros’s influence. Oleg Deripaska, the largest Rusal shareholder, has previously criticised Interros’ management of the company.

Rusal currently owns 25.13 per cent of the metal maker, while Interros has a 28 per cent interest. Abramovich is acquiring his stake from subsidiaries of the company.

Background to this deal:

Skadden is a longstanding adviser to Abramovich, defeating Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky in a $5bn High Court case on his behalf earlier this year (31 August 2012). Skadden also advised the Russian billionaire on his takeover of Chelsea FC in 2003.

Egorov’s Wittering joined the firm from HSF earlier this year (21 November 2012). Afanasiev, meanwhile, has been on Rusal’s board of directors since March 2007.

Debevoise last year acted on behalf of Norilsk subsidiaries Corbiere Holdings and Raleigh Investments, throwing out claims from Rusal alleging a conspiracy. Debevoise’s Peter Goldsmith QC led for the subsidiaries in the case brought at the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in St Kitts and Nevis.

For an interview with Rusal chief legal officer Igor Makarov, click here