South Staffs Plc cuts adviser roster to four, DWF and Wragges handed roles

Utility company South Staffordshire Plc has cut its informal panel from 25 to four with DWF, Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, SGH Martineau and SAS Daniels being awarded the mandate to advise the company. 

The review was initiated following the appointment of general counsel (GC) Gareth Brewerton, who joined the company in October from SGH Martineau.

Brewerton has since reduced the advisory roster to four, with past advisers including Freeth Cartwright, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Nabarro and Shoosmiths all missing out on the panel spot. Freshfields had previously advised the company on banking and competition work.

The plan is understood to have been part of Brewerton’s efforts to take control back from external advisers and keep a tighter reign on the legal budget. The GC is also introducing technology to keep track of the hours logged by law firms instead of relying on their own cost estimates.

Brewerton is understood to have called every adviser currently on the company’s list after taking up the role in order to decide who to hand the bulk of its future work to. Since the beginning of the year he has met with DWF, Wragges and SGH Martineau every three or four weeks to assess the progress of the relationship.

As a former SGH Martineau partner, Brewerton has strong links with the firm, which has acted for South Staffordshire since 1920. Wragges water partner Jonathan Chamberlain is the company relationship partner, while partner Martin Sales, who is based in Edinburgh, leads the relationship for DWF. 

Brewerton was automotive head at SGH Martineau between 2011 and 2013, where he worked with South Staffordshire plc, Tessenderlo Chemie NV, East End Foods plc and Toyota GB. The company has merged the legal head role with risk and compliance since he joined.

South Staffs was owned by infrastructure fund manager Alinda Capital Partners, along with Cambridge Water, until last year, when it was acquired by private equity giant KKR. The deal handed mandates to Clifford Chance, Freshfields, and Simpson Thacher (13 May 2013)

Freshfields advised Alinda on the merger of the South Staffordshire Water and Cambridge Water licences in 2012, said to be the first unconditional merger clearance from the Competition Commission.