Linklaters and Eversheds finalise the sale of Berkeley Square Estate

Linklaters & Alliance and Eversheds have exchanged contracts on the sale of Mayfair’s famous Berkeley Square Estate for an estimated £325m just five days after the original buyer pulled out of the deal.
Contracts were exchanged a fortnight ago (4 June) for the 10-acre estate.
Eversheds property partner Richard Stephens acted for the purchaser, who is believed to be Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and head of the Abu Dhabi royal family. Sheikh Zayed stepped in when the Saudi royal family pulled out of the deal at the end of May.
Alexandra Marks at Linklaters acted for the vendor, the BP Pension Fund, and helped to introduce a raft of innovations to deliver a fast sale. Assisted by Martyn Davies, Marks began preparing documentation for the sale some time before the portfolio was marketed, effectively taking on the role and the risk of the eventual purchaser’s lawyers.
The transaction was Linklaters’ first major portfolio sale to make use of a pass-worded website for bidders as an alternative to a conventional data room.
“It made a really significant difference to the way we were able to manage the transaction,” said Marks. “We were able to deal with a lot of different bidders simultaneously without them having to come too close to us in the early stages. With the material all laid out for them to see, they could come up with much better indicative bids.” Faced with bids that were far less hedged by conditions than normal, the vendor was able to shortlist much more accurately. As a useful by-product, hits on the website also acted as a valuable gauge of just how interested the different bidders were.
The sale process was further accelerated by presenting legal documentation, including contracts, to all shortlisted bidders so that it could be built into heads of terms.
“Normally, the agents agree heads of terms, then you have to translate that into legal terms,” said Marks. “Heads of terms often become contentious, with every word battled over.” The contract included some unusual aspects, such as the sale of rent arrears to the purchaser.
Marks does not yet know whether she will be approached to take an ongoing involvement in the portfolio for its new owner, but continues to act for the BP Pension Fund as it reinvests in the property sector.