Slaughters beats Linklaters to American Express acquisition

Slaughter and May has sidelined Linklaters and won instructions from American Express (Amex) on its acquisition of Threadneedle Asset Management. Amex is now expected to go on a European spending spree.

This is Slaughters’ first corporate deal for the company after years of advising Amex on regulatory issues. Linklaters has previously advised on most corporate matters.

While Slaughters’ lead partner Paul Olney was instructed by the US legal department, the firm is hoping that the relationship will be cemented by the appointment of Mark Chambers as managing counsel for Amex Europe. Chambers, a former Slaughters lawyer, joined Amex in March this year from GE Insurance Holdings, where Slaughters was his principal corporate adviser.

Amex’s £340m acquisition of Threadneedle is the credit card company’s first major corporate transaction since 1984, and more are likely as it looks to expand its asset management portfolio.

Jim Cracchiolo, group president of Amex Financial Services, said: “The decision to acquire Threadneedle is part of our overall strategy to expand our financial services business globally. We see tremendous potential for long-term growth in the European asset management market.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Matthew Cosans advised seller Zurich Financial Services (ZFS), a long-term client of the firm, which is in the midst of an extensive restructuring programme.

The sale is the culmination of a year of preparation by Freshfields and ZFS, which included considering bids from a range of companies, reportedly including Mellon Financial and Apax Partners.

Freshfields advised ZFS on last September’s $2.5bn (£1.49bn) rights issue and on a number of other disposals. According to ZFS chief executive Jim Schiro, more could follow.

Head of legal Tom O’Connor led the in-house team advising Threadneedle. The structure of the company will be unaffected by the acquisition.