Magic circle duo among firms on call as Vodafone seals €18.4bn Liberty Global Europe acquisition

Slaughter and May, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Shearman & Sterling and Latham & Watkins are among a raft of firms to have won roles on Vodafone’s €18.4bn (£16.1bn) purchase of the majority of US cable giant Liberty Global’s European assets.

The deal will see Vodafone expand its mobile, cable television and broadband services across the continent with the acquisition of businesses in Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, including Unitymedia, one of Germany’s largest cable networks.

Slaughters is advising longstanding client Vodafone, fielding a team led by M&A head Roland Turnill, alongside corporate partner Susannah Macknay and competition partners Claire Jeffs and Kerry O’Connell.

The magic circle firm’s team also includes tax partner Steve Edge, finance partner Oliver Storey, employment partner Jonathan Fenn, intellectual property (IP) and IT partner Duncan Blaikie and real estate partner Jane Edwarde.

Romanian firm Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii acted alongside on Slaughters on local law matters, advising Vodafone Romania on the acquisition of Liberty Global’s local cable operator UPC Romania, with a team of lawyers led by deputy managing partner Stefan Damian and Partner Vlad Cercel.

Freshfields, meanwhile, has taken the lead corporate role for Liberty Global, the parent company of Virgin Media. The firm’s team is being led by corporate and M&A partner David Sonter alongside IP/IT partner David Brooks, tax partner Peter Clements, employment partner Alice Greenwell and Brussels competition partner Sascha Schubert.

Freshfields Germany lawyers advising on the deal include Hamburg corporate partner Jochen Ellrott, Berlin competition partner Frank Rohling, Hamburg employment partner Boris Dzida and Duesseldorf IP/IT partner Klaus Beucher.

Latham is advising Liberty alongside Freshfields on German antitrust matters, with a team understood to be led by Duesseldorf partner Michael Esser, while Shearman is advising Liberty on US legal matters, with New York M&A partner Robert Katz leading the firm’s team. The firm’s team also includes global corporate head George Casey, London-based TMT head Jeremy Kutner, New York tax partner Laurence Bambino and Washington tax partner Ethan Harris.

Ropes & Gray is advising Liberty on finance matters with a team led by London based partner Jane Rogers, while CMS is understood to be advising on local law matters in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Slaughters and Freshfields also both advised Vodafone and Liberty respectively in 2016, when the companies agreed to merge their Dutch operations in a deal that saw Vodafone make a €1bn cash payment to Liberty. That deal also handed roles to Allen & Overy (A&O) for Liberty and Dutch firm NautaDutilh for Vodafone.

Freshfields also acted for Liberty Global on its 2014 purchase of a stake in ITV, with Sonter leading the firm’s team, while Slaughters took a lead role on Vodafone’s 2013 disposal of its 45% stake in US mobile company Verizon Wireless. Turnill played a key role on that deal, assisted by tax partner Edge.

Shearman and Ropes took the lead roles for Liberty Global on its $23.3bn purchase of Virgin Media in 2013, a deal that also handed roles to A&O, Hogan Lovells, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy.