Skadden, Freshfields and White & Case line up for latest oligarch battle

A heavyweight roster of lawyers is gearing up for the latest instalment of the High Court battles between billionaire oligarchs, in what could become a re-run of the mammoth Berezovsky v Abramovich legal battle.

Tony Grabiner QC
Tony Grabiner QC

The High Court battle pitches Ukranian industrialist Victor Pinchuk against rivals Gennady Bogoliubov and Igor Kolomoisky and will see allegations of breach of contract and breach of trust played out in London’s courts.

One Essex Court’s Tony Grabiner QC, who, in 2012, represented Rosneft in its battle with Yukos, has been drafted in by White & Case partner and solicitor-advocate David Goldberg to lead the case.

Grabiner will go up against his set mate Laurence Rabinowitz QC, who is instructed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ian Terry for the co-defendant Kolomoisky. Rabinowitz will lead Fountain Court’s Patrick Goodall.

In 2011 Rabinowitz was instructed by Addleshaw Goddard for Berezovsky’s Commercial Court action (31 August 2011). Freshfields’ Terry was also involved in the Berezovsky dispute, acting for defendant Russian metal magnate Vasily Anisimov in the chancery proceedings, which went on to settle (13 September 2012).

Laurence Rabinowitz QC
Laurence Rabinowitz QC

The magic circle firm billed £5m for its work on the case (26 September 2012), with Addleshaws agreeing a deal to settle £3.75m of the bill as part of its loser pays deal with Berezovsky (12 October 2012).

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has picked up the mandate for the second defendant with partner David Kavanagh instructing Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Howard QC for Bogoliubov.

Skadden famously represented Abramovich in his legal fights with Berezovsky, with partner Karyl Nairn leading the defence team.

Howard, meanwhile, was lined up to represent Michael Cherney in his £1bn legal fight with Rusal chief executive Oleg Deripaska. That case settled part way through the trial (27 September 2012).

According to sources close to the Ukranian battle, which is due to be heard next year, the matter will be one of the most fiercely fought by the courts in 2014.

The claims centres on the alleged failure to deliver ownership of an iron ore business for which Pinchuk, one of Ukraine’s highest-profile and wealthy businessmen and the son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. is understood to have paid $143m. Pinchuk filed a claim in March this year and the defence is expected to be filed in September.

The fact that the parties will litigate in London will once again underline the City as a centre of choice for feuding oligarchs.