When Provident Financial was subject to an unsolicited takeover offer from Non-Standard Finance, it called on Clifford Chance to defend. For 14 weeks, the magic circle firm was at the credit provider’s beck and call as it sought to fight off the unwanted approach. The end result – a back down from Non-Standard – made Clifford Chance a deserved winner of this year’s Corporate Team prize, sponsored by Howden Insurance Brokers.

The deal was led by London partners Lee Coney and Mark Poulton, who were spurred into action when the surprise offer was made via a voicemail warning to Provident’s chairman. There were also potential hurdles on the investor side, as the deal was supported initially by stakeholders holding over half of Provident’s shares.

All was not lost though. The Clifford Chance team carried out a forensic analysis of Non-Standard’s accounts, claiming some of its dividends and buy-backs were unlawful. Provident then persuaded the Takeover Panel to extend the offer timetable, as opinions shifted on the deal.

Law firm-wise, it truly had been a clash of the titans, with Non-Standard calling on none other than Slaughter and May as its counsel. Yet on the eve of the drop-dead date, Non-Standard retracted its offer and walked away in a massive victory for the Clifford Chance team and its client. While the magic circle’s corporate teams are primed to act on complex and hostile takeovers – see Linklaters’ current rebuff of GardaWorld’s bid for G4S – the Provident deal is a fascinating example of how to stop a deal well.