Weil Gotshal enters GE Real Estate’s Sophia fight

Weil Gotshal & Manges’ expansionist Paris office has gained an introduction to General Electric (GE) Investissement Real Estate on its e2.3bn (£1.58bn) bid for French property management company Sophia.

The takeover battle, which sees the French property arm of US conglomerate GE pitted against Societe Fonciere Lyonnaise for control of Sophia, is the first time Weil Gotshal has acted for the subsidiary, despite the firm representing the US parent for a number of years.

Weil Gotshal has significantly built up its French arm after securing a merger with Serra Leavy & Cazals in January 2003.

Prior to this deal, GE traditionally instructed Jones Day in France. However, on the Sophia transaction Weil Gotshal is providing guidance on securities and corporate law while Jones Day is undertaking due diligence on Sophia’s property assets as well as seeking regulatory clearance from Banque de France and the European Commission.

Weil Gotshal’s French managing partner Claude Serra and partner David Chijner are leading the team.

At Jones Day, Phillippe Billot, partner and co-chair of the firm’s lending/structured finance practice, who is due to head up the firm’s Milan group in January next year, is reprising his role to long-time client GE.

Partner Jean-Pierre Martel of Rambaud Martel and Thierry Brocas of De Pardieu Brocas Maffei & Leygonie are representing Sophia with financial advice from Merrill Lynch. Lazard is the financier to the GE offer.

Weil Gotshal and Jones Day declined to comment.