£3m BCCI silk joins Rabinowitz for BP-AAR arbitration

One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC will later this month face Essex Court Chambers’ Gordon Pollock QC in a London arbitration between oil giant BP International and its Russian TNK-BP partner, Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) Petroleum.

Gordon Pollock QC
Gordon Pollock QC

It is understood that Pollock, who famously received a £3m brief fee for his work advising the liquidators of BCCI (12 January 2004), was secured for the case in recent weeks by Skadden Arps Slate Meager & Flom partner David Kavanagh.

Rabinowitz has been instructed by Linklaters partner Michael Bennett alongside Richard Slade QC of Brick Court Chambers.

Slade has been the only constant counsel on the dispute, with Brick Court’s Mark Hapgood QC originally instructed on the arbitration for BP. Hapgood exited the case after being instructed by Addleshaw Goddard to represent Boris Berezovsky in the Russian’s chancery dispute following the exit of Rabinowitz, who had acted for the oligarch in his commercial court claims against Roman Abramovich (30 January 2012).

Hapgood’s setmate Mark Howard QC also had a starting role in the arbitration, instructed for AAR by Kavanagh. Howard, however, was then instructed by Dechert to represent Michael Cherney in his legal battle with rival Oleg Deripaska (27 September 2012).

Former Supreme Court Justice Lord Saville has been appointed to chair the BP-AAR arbitration, which will last seven days.

Laurence Rabinowitz QC
Laurence Rabinowitz QC

As the arbitration is taking place behind closed doors details of the dispute are unknown. However, at the heart of the case is a battle over BP’s proposed £10bn share swap with Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft last year (24 January 2011).

AAR, which had a 50 per cent stake in BP’s Russian venture TNK-BP, objected to the proposed share swap and Arctic exploration joint venture, arguing that BP was in breach of its obligations to TNK-BP, who were effectively cut out of the deal.

Last month, BP and AAR agreed deals to sell their shareholdings in TNK-BP to Rosneft. Linklaters advised BP on the deal while Skadden was instructed for AAR. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is advising Rosneft (22 October 2012).

Following the collapse of the BCCI litigation in November 2005, Pollock, who made an 80-day address to the court during the case, was criticised by Mr Justice Tomlinson for his behaviour in court (17 April 2006).