Linklaters, Weil and Mills & Reeve lead on £1.2bn Weetabix sale

Linklaters, Weil Gotshal & Manges and Mills & Reeve have advised on a £1.2bn deal that is set to see iconic breakfast brand Weetabix becoming majority Chinese-owned.

The deal has seen Linklaters act for Chinese food giant Bright Foods, which has bought a 60% stake in Weetabix from owner Lion Capital.

Weil Gotshal acted for the private equity firm, which will retain a 40% stake in the business alongside Weetabix’s management.

Linklaters fielded a team of corporate lawyers on the deal, including senior consultant Richard Gu and partner Teresa Ma in Shanghai, and partner Clodagh Hayes and managing associate Tom Matthews in London.

London managing partner Mike Francies led for Weil Gotshal, while Mills & Reeves’ Cambridge-based corporate partner Anthony McGurk advised Weetabix’s management.

McGurk commented: “This deal will resonate around the world due to the high consumer loyalty towards Weetabix.”

Lion Capital, which was formed in April 2005 after splitting off from US buyout house HM Capital Partners, is a key client of Weil, which also acted for HM Capital on its initial acquisition of Weetabix in 2003 for £93m. Weetabix turned to Ashurst for advice on the sale.

The Northamptonshire-based company is one of the largest producers of breakfast cereals in the UK, also the owner of Alpen and Ready Brek, and exports to over 80 countries. Lion Capital said the partnership with the Chinese food giant, which had 2011 revenues of £12bn, would offer an excellent “route-to-market” through its extensive retail platform.