CC, Freshfields and DLA Piper among firms landing star roles in TV M&A rush

Clifford Chance, Rosenblatt and Shearman & Sterling are among firms that have won mandates as television companies embarked on an M&A spree.

Lewis Silkin, Olswang, Shearman & Sterling, and Rosenblatt scored roles on the £450m acquisition of Channel 5 by US media giant Viacom.

It is thought that the network’s auction drew interest from more than 20 potential buyers, including Discovery Communications and BSkyB,

Shearman & Sterling advised longstanding client Viacom on its winning bid, led by M&A partner Laurence Levy, antitrust patner James Webber, and tax partner Sarah Priestley.

Olswang picked up a role advising Viacom on commercial and regulatory aspects of the deal, fielding commercial partners John Enser and Victoria Gaskell. Lewis Silkin partner Richard Miskella advised the client on employment issues.

A team from Rosenblatt was instructed by the target, Channel 5, which is owned by Northern & Shell. The firm has close ties to the media giant having acted on the original purchase of Channel 5 from the German broadcaster RTL back in 2010 (2 August 2010). Corporate partner Jon Lovitt and media partner Chris Pulham led for the firm, with support from regulatory partner Peter Price, employment partner Rima Mehay and real estate partner Martin Buckerlee.

Having pulled out of the Channel 5 auction, US media group Discovery Communications opted instead to enter a joint venture with Liberty Global to buy London’s All3Media for £550m.

All3Media, the production company behind hit shows Midsomer Murders, The Only Way is Essex and Hollyoaks, turned to Shearman & Sterling M&A partner Mark Soundy, tax partner Sarah Priestley and finance expert Peter Hayes on its sale. Soundy previously forged ties with All3Media at his former firm, Weil Gotshal & Manges, successfully transferring the client to Shearman & Sterling when he moved last year (15 May 2013).

Permira, which bought All3Media in 2006 for £320m with advice from Clifford Chance, turned to the magic circle again for its disposal. Corporate partners David Pearson, Caroline Sherrell and lawyer Charlotte Madden stepped up to advise the private equity house on the deal.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised Liberty Global, fielding corporate partner David Sonter and senior associate Helen Archbold. Meanwhile, DLA Piper’s corporate head Bob Bishop took the helm for Discovery Communications. Corporate partners PK Paran, Charles Cook and legal director Ciaran Stone supported, alongside Alexandra Kamerling on competition, and Paul Rutherford on tax.

Ropes & Gray advised on financing aspects of the transaction, led by partner Tania Bedi and associate Alex Robb.

Finally, a US-based team from Squire Sanders advised ITV on one of its largest acquisitions to date – the $360m production company Leftfield Entertainment, which makes TV programmes including Pawn Stars and Real Housewives of New Jersey.

The firm is ITV’s go-to adviser for its US acquisitions, having assisted on its recent buy-outs of High Noon, ThinkFactory and Gurney Productions.

New York-based corporate partner Eric Cowan led the firm’s team on the deal, with support from corporate partner Glynna Christian, and Cleveland-based partner Michele Connell alongside associate Mike French.

Stroock and Boise Schiller stepped up to the plate for Leftfield.

On the flurry of media sector acquisitions, Shearman & Sterling’s Levy said: “Advertising revenues are more or less holding up with improvements in the economy, and the UK has become an exciting locale for growing media companies. It’s no coincidence that people are interested in getting a stronger foothold here, as it’s a hub for creation outside of the US and a great place for companies looking to develop new areas of business for the future.”