Latham US passes airline work to London

Latham & Watkins’ London office has won its first work for private equity fund Indigo Partners LLC, thanks to a referral from the US firm’s Silicon Valley office.

Latham’s London office advised Indigo in the fund’s investment in Hungarian airline Wizz Air, represented by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s London office.

Latham’s Silicon Valley office has advised Indigo once before, on a small matter related to the fund, but the Wizz Air deal is the firm’s first major instruction and its first in Europe.

Led by former Simmons & Simmons private equity partner Charles Fuller, the firm advised on the negotiation of the term sheet relating to €40m (£26.7m) of funding. Latham also provided regulatory advice to Indigo on rules limiting foreign ownership in a European airline to 49 per cent.

“This is the first time I’ve come across airline work in private equity,” said Fuller, adding: “It’s an interesting area to see venture funding in.”

Indigo is a US-based private equity fund set up in 2002 to focus exclusively on air transportation. Its first major deal came last year with the establishment of Tiger Airways, a Singapore company.

Indigo’s principals, Bill Franke and Steve Johnson, have served on the boards of several airlines and finance vehicles, including America West Airlines. Franke has a longstanding relationship with Latham in the US.

Wizz Air’s first flights departed from Katowice in Poland on 19 May, flying to airports such as Luton, which are traditionally destinations for carriers such as Ryanair. The airline will eventually operate from Katowice and Budapest, where it is headquartered, and will fly to 12 European destinations.

Freshfields, led by London corporate partner Frank Miller, is advising Wizz Air in multiple aspects, including corporate and regulatory.