Reckitt & Colman

Guiseppe Sanna, head of legal at Reckitt & Colman, could make good use of a crystal ball at the moment to divine what his professional future holds.

A fortnight ago, the company merged with Dutch-based Benckiser to create the world’s largest household cleaning products company and job losses have been widely predicted.

So far, three senior directors will be leaving, but Sanna does not know how many lawyers are currently in Benckiser’s in-house team or has any idea of how the merger will affect his own in-house team.

For the moment, however, Sanna is in charge of a European in-house team of six.

Although Sanna is based in London, a second lawyer works from Hull, one resides in Spain while three practise in France, which is Reckitt & Colman’s biggest market.

“We are divided up along geographical areas,” says Sanna. “The French lawyers look after the local area and the Benelux countries, while the Spanish lawyer looks after the Iberian market.

“The UK lawyer, who is based in Hull, covers Britain, Ireland and the Nordic countries.”

For central and eastern Europe there are no dedicated in-house lawyers. All work concerning those regions is sent to outside firms, supervised by Sanna.

Generally, the company farms out around 80 per cent of its legal work. The other 20 per cent tends to be the more routine tasks or touches specialist areas such as health and safety matters, some competition work, and IP litigation.

Each of the in-house lawyers has a specialisation with Sanna working with a French lawyer on providing specialist knowledge of mergers, acquisitions and divestment issues.

Other in-house lawyers work within laboratory law or advertising regulations.

However, the in-house lawyers are also expected to be all-rounders and businessmen in order to work closely with other departments of the company.

Sanna expects the same intimate knowledge of Reckitt & Colman from the external law firms he uses.

“I try to build up a strategic partnership with the firms I use,” he says.

“I want them to be proactive in ensuring our risks are covered. I don’t just want a firm to provide legal advice in isolation.

“They have got to have a clear insight into our business, our products and those of our competitors as well as providing sound judgements on specific legal issues.”

Sanna adds that he is very sensitive as well about conflict of interest issues, although, ironically, Linklaters & Alliance, which includes Oppenhoffs as a member, acted for Benckiser in the recent merger deal, together with the Dutch member of the Alliance, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.

Sanna is unsure whether he wants to extend the Oppenhoff link-up to the rest of the Alliance firms in the future.

In general terms, Sanna sees that the firms the company uses are treated as an extension of the in-house team, although the work is usually sent out as specific problems, rather than bringing in outside lawyers to work alongside the in-house team.

For global matters the company uses Slaughter and May, while Addleshaw Booth & Co and Baker & McKenzie are employed for Europe-wide deals while Allen & Overy advises on eastern European work.

Reckitt & Colman also outsources work to Coudert Brothers for French issues.

In Germany, it uses Oppenhoff & Radler and Boesebeck Droste.

But how long this structure will stay in place once the merger comes into effect is anyone’s guess – including Sanna’s.

Guiseppe Sanna
Head of legal
Reckitt & Colman

Organisation Reckitt & Colman
Sector Personal care & household products
FTSE 100 ranking 88
Market capitalistion £3.5bn
Employees 5000 in Europe, 16,500 worldwide
Legal function Six lawyers
Head of legal Guiseppe Sanna (Europe)
Reporting to Larry Freedman, group legal director
Main location for lawyers London
Main law firms Slaughter and May, Addleshaw Booth & Co, Baker & McKenzie, Allen & Overy, Coudert Brothers, Oppenhoff & Radler and Boesebeck Droste