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Kingfisher cuts its international law firm roster by 80%

Europe’s largest home improvement retailer and owner of B&Q, Kingfisher, has slashed its roster of international law firm advisers from 10 to two, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Hogan Lovells securing key roles to handle the group’s major transactional work.

It had initially set out to cut the number of large international firms it uses to four in a bid to maximise its legal spend.

However, the FTSE 100 company has gone further still and settled on two primary firms to handle all of its major corporate and M&A work.

Hogan Lovells’ appointment represents a significant boost to the firm’s relationship with the company as, while it sat on the previous line-up, it did not carry out much work for Kingfisher.

In contrast, Freshfields’ ties to Kingfisher date back to 1990 and the magic circle firm has traditionally been Kingfisher’s main corporate adviser, with the relationship handing Freshfields headline roles on deals including its £3.2bn takeover of Castorama in 2002, the £310m sale of Superdrug in 2001 and the spin-off of Comet/Darty and Woolworths the same year. All of the deals were led by relationship partner Edward Braham.

The current review has been led by Kingfisher general counsel Clare Wardle, who joined in 2010, having previously been legal head at both Tube Lines and Royal Mail, where she worked extensively with Hogan Lovells.

In addition to the two key transactional advisers, Macfarlanes, Addleshaw Goddard and Wragge & Co are understood to have been appointed to advise on areas such as property and employment, with Bond Pearce handling UK commercial and IT work.

The last review of Kingfisher’s panel saw around 20 law firms appointed to advise across eight jurisdictions worldwide: the UK, China, Russia, Poland, France, Spain, Turkey and Brazil. Other international firms which previously sat on Kingfisher’s roster include Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and DLA Piper.

Kingfisher, the third-largest home improvement retailer in the world, also owns UK DIY supplier Screwfix, as well as European DIY giants Brico Depot and Castorama.

The group, which has almost 970 stores across eight countries and employs a total of around 80,000 staff, reported sales of £10.8bn for the year ending 28 January 2012.

Source : Sofia Lind - Legal Week

15 June 2012
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