Pinsents and Eversheds emerge as frontrunners in Heineken sole adviser race

Heineken is expected to hand its new sole advisory mandate to either Eversheds or Pinsent Masons but neither CMS Cameron McKenna nor Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are expected to be invited to tender for the contract.

The drinks giant, which posted £1.3bn in annual revenues for 2013 and owns brands including Bulmers, Fosters and Kronenburg, is gearing up for a major shakeup of its legal roster. Sources suggest it will ask a shortlist of around six firms to put themselves forward for the sole advisor mandate. 

Pinsents and Eversheds are both expected to lead the competition. Both firms have invested heavily in building up a portfolio of sole adviser clients. Heineken’s UK legal head Graeme Colquhoun is understood to have been holding discussions with Eversheds international chief Stephen Hopkins with the aim of getting a better insight into the firm’s high-profile £10m deal with Tyco (8 January 2007).

Eversheds partner Hopkins was appointed as client partner for the Tyco relationship in 2006 and has since scored multiple successes with the client. The firm renewed its deal with Tyco International to service all the manufacturer’s legal needs across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2012 (6 January 2012) and Hopkins helped secures a two-year extension to the contract last year (26 April 2013).

Heineken is on the hunt for a firm that can provide both day-to-day advice in a bid to reduce costs.

Individuals close to the deal suggest Heineken will not contact current advisers CMS Cameron McKenna or Freshfields about the mandate because both firms are perceived to be too large to be interested in the job.

Sole provider deals are uncommon and would mark a significant break with Heinken’s current arrangement of procuring advisers on an ad hoc basis. The company does not currently have a formal panel but regularly instructs TLT, Shepherd and Wedderburn for everyday matters and CMS Cameron McKenna for trademark law as well as Taylor Wessing for IP.

Most legal work at Heineken is currently put out to tender and managed by the procurement team but the company is to appoint a sole supplier within the next few months. It is in the process of setting out what it is looking for and specifically the price range it wants to be charged.

The company’s large procurement team is taking on the role of coordinating the tender process for the appointment, while Colquhoun has been tasked with setting out specific criteria regarding rates.

The next step will be to ask the shortlisted firms to make presentations about what they have to offer, all of which is expected to take around five months.

The company’s legal team has undergone big changes since taking over Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) in 2008 (28 January 2008). The deal saw Colquhoun move over to the Heineken legal team though general counsel and company secretary Peter Kennerley was made redundant following the successful takeover (6 May 2008). 

The deal was handled by Linklaters’ corporate partner Matthew Middleditch for S&N and Allen & Overy for Heineken. The following year, Freshfields advised Heineken on its surprise investment in Globe Pub Company’s senior debt with  Linklaters advising Globe (27 April 2009).

Heineken’s current legal team in the UK consists of four lawyers and two paralegals.