The London office of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has inadvertently developed a booming football practice following its client Russian multimillionaire Roman Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea Football Club.
Abramovich, who last week paid £17m for Blackburn Rovers
leftwinger Damien Duff and £6m for West Ham defender Glen Johnson, has made Skadden’s London office, which is better known for its M&A work, the most active football firm in the City.
Abramovich, the 36-year-old oil tycoon, is currently inflating the football transfer market as he flings money at the nation’s best to build up his Chelsea dream team. At the time of going to press, Abramovich was reportedly about to sign Manchester United midfielder Juan Veron and was allegedly about to make offers for Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard and Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira.
Skadden’s London managing partner Bruce Buck is understood to be handling all of Abramovich’s transfer negotiations.
Abramovich is a majority shareholder in Russian oil company Sibneft, which is currently merging with rival Yukos. Skadden is advising the shareholders of Sibneft on the Yukos merger.
Football lawyers outside Skadden are marvelling at Abramovich’s bottomless pit approach to buying the best for Chelsea. West Ham company secretary Scott Duxbury, who dealt with the 18-year-old Johnson’s transfer in-house, said: “If Abramovich wants to spend £6m on an 18-year-old he can do that.”
Clifford Chance also got onto the Chelsea scene recently when partner Guy Norman handled due diligence for Citigroup, Abramovich’s bankers, on his purchase of Chelsea Village. “This was one of those situations where we did fairly standard legal work on a really exciting deal,” said Norman.