Firms in the Spotlight Private equity: LBO
Founded in 2012, OPLEO Avocats has built a strong reputation in advising managers and majority shareholders in LBO transactions and structuring management packages. Managing Partner Pierre-Olivier Bernard has been a key player in private equity and LBOs for nearly 20 years and leads a team of prominent lawyers, many of which were trained at large …View Profile...
Private equity: LBO in France
Active in the large- and mid-cap segments of the market, Clifford Chance acts for private equity houses, banks and specialised infrastructure funds. With considerable sector expertise and strong cross-border capabilities, the team, which is led by practice heads Fabrice Cohen and Marianne Pezant, has handled several recent high-profile instructions. Highlights included advising PAI Partners on the acquisition of Asmodee group from Eurazeo, valued at €1.2bn, and assisting Permira with the acquisition of Exclusive Networks from Cobepa, Edmond de Rothschild, Sogecap and the management. Laurent Schoenstein led the advice to Cube Infrastructure Managers on the disposal of Idex Group and Taranis. Gilles Lebreton is also noted. Benjamin de Blegiers is now with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Clients also include Apax Partners, Cinven and BlackRock.
'Clearly one of the best teams in the market', Latham & Watkins continues to advise on headline-grabbing transactions, frequently working with the firm's finance, corporate, tax and antitrust departments. Thomas Forschbach, who splits his time between Paris and London, recently led in advising the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec on its acquisition of a 30% stake in GE Water & Process Technologies (GE), a complex carve-out as part of Suez's acquisition of GE. Gaëtan Gianasso, who splits his time between Paris and London, assisted Intermediate Capital Group and Sagesse Retraite Santé with the €2.4bn acquisition of a majority stake in DomusVi. In a recent Franco-Chinese cross-border transaction, Olivier du Mottay acted for Citic Capital on its acquisition of Axilonea from funds managed by Oaktree Capital. 'Very efficient negotiator' Denis Criton has a reputation for being 'clearly the best among the younger generation of private equity lawyers'. Alexander Crosthwaite was recently promoted to the partnership. Ardian, Bridgepoint and PAI Partners are among its other clients.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is frequently sought out by some of the most high-profile players in the market. The team, which is led by David Aknin, acts for domestic and international private equity sponsors across all market segments on high-value transactions. In recent work, it advised Sagard and the managers on the sale of Alvest Group to a consortium formed by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Ardian as well as on a subsequent reinvestment by Sagard and the managers in the group. Other highlights include Aknin and Alexandre Duguay assisting Montagu Private Equity and Astorg with the sale of their interests in Sebia to CVC and Tethys. Emmanuelle Henry's recent stand-out instructions include advising Oaktree Capital Management on the sale of Axilone to Citic Capital. Frédéric Cazals is another key contact. Benjamin de Blegiers joined from Clifford Chance. 3i, Advent International and Carlyle are also clients.
Bredin Prat acts for investment funds and companies alike, including family offices and smaller funds. Led by Benjamin Kanovitch and Florence Haas, the group advised Core Equity Holdings on the acquisition of ID Verde while Barthélémy Courteault led a team assisting TDR Capital with its acquisition of Buffalo Grill from Abénex and Nixen. In other work, the group handled several transactions for Tethys Invest, including the acquisition of a stake in Galileo Global Education. It also handled work for Eurazeo, Groupe Delachaux and KKR. Olivier Assant, Patrick Dziewolski and recently promoted partner Adrien Simon are also noted.
De Pardieu Brocas Maffei focuses on instructions from investment funds in the mid-cap market, acting for buyers and sellers alike. The 'reliable' and 'creative' Jean-François Pourdieu, Guillaume Touttée and Cédric Chanas form the core practice, with counsel Sandra Benhaïm providing key support. In addition to advising assigning investors Siparex, Cathay Capital, BPI and BNP Paribas Développement on the acquisition of an equity stake in Ginger CEBTP Group by EMZ Partners, the team also assisted Five Arrows Managers with the acquisition of Menix Group from LBO Partners, closely cooperating with the firm's tax and financing departments. The group also handled work for 21 Centrale Partners, UI Gestion and Weinberg Capital Partners.
DLA Piper impresses with its 'very business-oriented team' that is 'very aware of the market practices in France'. Traditionally strong in the mid-cap market, the group has recently gained traction in the large-cap space. The team's client portfolio spans private equity houses, management teams, debt providers and portfolio companies, with especially strong expertise in the retail, technology and manufacturing sectors. 'Industry veteran' and practice head Xavier Norlain, whose 'knowledge of the French market makes him a great addition during negotiations', recently advised the founders and management team of French telecoms infrastructure player Circet on the sale of its majority stake in Circet to Advent International and their reinvestment alongside the private equity house. Jeremy Scemama led in assisting The Carlyle Group and Montefiore Investment with the sale of a 40% stake in European Camping Group to Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (OTPP) and the reinvestment of the remaining shares into a new holding vehicle alongside OTPP. Abénex Capital, Cathay Capital and Ardian also feature on the client roster. Matthieu Lampel made counsel. Michel Frieh left to found Frieh Associés.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP has established itself as a key market player following the arrival of the former Ashurst LLP team in June 2017. In a major cross-border highlight, Alan Mason and corporate practice head Guy Benda joined forces with the Berlin-based Stephanie Hundertmark to advise Advent International on its exclusive negotiations to acquire Zentiva from Sanofi for €1.9bn, involving a carve-out. Florent Mazeron and Yann Gozal assisted the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec with its joint investment alongside PSP Investments in industrial engineering player Fives. In other work, private equity head Nicolas Barberis acted for Charterhouse Capital Partners on its proposed acquisition of Siaci Saint Honoré from Ardian and Rothschild. Other clients include Warburg Pincus, Ardian and Carlyle Group.
Goodwin acts for investors, portfolio companies and management teams and has a very active practice in the Paris market. French domestic transactions account for the majority of its recent stand-out highlights, but cross-border mandates involving US and UK components are also part of the team's workload. In evidence of its cross-border strength and its track record in the technology sector, the group advised Exclusive Networks and its management on a substantial new investment from Permira. In a recent highlight from the retail sector, the practice assisted Equistone Partners Europe with its acquisition of Bruneau from Weinberg Capital Partners. Practice head Maxence Bloch led in acting for EMZ Partners on its acquisition of Ginger Group by way of a mix of equity and third-party funding. Jérôme Jouhanneaud and Thomas Maitrejean are other key contacts. Apax Partners, Compagnie Marco Polo and La Financière Patrimoniale d'Investissement are also among its other clients.
The 'very professional' team at Mayer Brown 'makes legal matters and risk analyses clear and understandable'. 'Experienced and talented', the 'responsive and very pragmatic' group 'goes into detail on complex matters' and 'takes the time to understand and discuss before engaging in negotiations'. Primarily active in the mid-cap market, the team specialises in acting for investment funds and also has strength in advising managers and other executives on transactions. Jean-François Louit assisted the managers of Industrial Parts Holding (IPH) with the acquisition of IPH by Brammer France from PAI Partners and practice head Guillaume Kuperfils advised FEF, a joint venture between CDC-IC and Mubadala, on its minority investment in DomusVi within the context of the acquisition of DomusVi by ICG and SRS from PAI Partners. Olivier Aubouin, Emily Pennec and Thomas Philippe are other names to note. Caroline Lan made partner and Hadrien Schlumberger made counsel. Xavier Jaspar left to establish his own practice. Primonial, LBO France and Bridgepoint are also clients.
Paul Hastings LLP
Paul Hastings LLP has 'a strong reputation in the market' and 'a very dedicated' team that 'has an excellent knowledge of market practices' and 'is well balanced, providing both safe legal advice and a business-minded approach'. Domestic mid-market transactions are the practice's mainstay, but its track record also includes cross-border mandates. The key contacts are practice head Olivier Deren, who has 'an excellent deal-making attitude', Alexis Terray, Guillaume Kellner and the 'technically very strong' Sébastien Crépy, who is commended for his 'time-keeping in delivering a deal'. Antin Infrastructure Partners, CM-CIC Investissement and Eurazeo are among its clients.
Scotto Partners 'combines legal, finance and tax skills in a unique way' and impresses with its 'deep market knowledge'. The 'very responsive' team is 'ready to vigorously defend managers' interests against private equity companies and their consultants'. With a clear focus on private clients, in particular family groups and the top management of listed and non-listed groups, the boutique firm fields an impressive practice, especially in the large-cap and mid-cap market. Recent stand-out transactions include advising the management of roofing specialist Imerys on the group's acquisition by Lone Star Funds for €1bn, led by firm founder Lionel Scotto le Massese and the 'very responsive' Isabelle Cheradame, who is 'a tough and resilient negotiator, yet able to compromise where required'. Nicolas Menard-Durand and Claire Revol-Renié are also noted. Kiloutou is a new client. Atotech and Buffalo Grill are other clients.
The 'outstanding' and 'very flexible' team at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP has strength across all market segments, with a high proportion of cross-border matters in addition to a strong domestic practice. Eduardo Fernandez, Christophe Garaud and Cédric Hajage are the core names, with key support coming from Gabriel Flandin. Hajage's recent highlights include advising CVC Capital Partners Strategic Opportunities on its acquisition, alongside Téthys Invest, of a controlling stake in Sebia from Astorg and Montagu Private Equity, in a matter that spanned France and Finland. Garaud assisted PAI Partners with the €1.5bn sale of Kiloutou to HLDI and HLD Europe and, in a stand-out domestic highlight, Fernandez acted for IK Investment Partners on its contemplated acquisition of a majority stake in Mademoiselle Desserts from its current shareholders. Other clients include Qualium Investissement, Carlyle Group and Weinberg Capital Partners.