A&O and Ashurst among firms to win spots on Morrisons' debut panel

Eversheds, DAC and Wragges also join retail giant’s first formal roster

Supermarket chain Morrisons has unveiled its first-ever formal legal panel, with a host of firms winning places, including Allen & Overy (A&O), Ashurst, Eversheds and DAC Beachcroft.

The panel review – which has been overseen by recently appointed general counsel Mark Amsden – has been divided into six categories: property, employment, personal injury (PI), licensing and regulatory, Scotland and an ‘everything else’ panel, which covers corporate, commercial, litigation, pensions and IP. 

Amsden said Morrisons’ debut panel would give the retail giant “better leveraging ability” than it had in the past, when it used an informal roster of firms. He admitted that the retail giant, Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket chain, had previously overspent on legal fees.

More than 20 firms pitched for inclusion on the various panels.

Five firms won places on the property roster, through which the majority of Morrisons’ legal spend goes. These are new appointees DAC Beachcroft, Eversheds and Browne Jacobson, along with previous advisers Wragge & Co and Gordons.

A&O, Ashurst, Eversheds and Gordons make up the employment panel, while DAC Beachcroft and Gordons have been appointed to the PI panel. On licensing and regulatory work, DWF has been newly appointed alongside DAC Beachcroft, Browne Jacobson, Blake Lapthorn and Gosschalks. 

MacRoberts was the only firm selected for the Scotland panel. The ‘everything else’ panel features Eversheds, Gordons, A&O, Ashurst, DWF, Wragges, Lupton Fawcett and 3volution. 

It is thought A&O and Ashurst will handle the lion’s share of the company’s high-end corporate and commercial work.

“This gives us better alignment for the legal panel as well as competition in different areas,” said Amsden. “No one has a sole appointment; it’s a good mix of people with experience of Morrisons. We were really impressed with the innovation people showed. We’ve spent a lot of money externally in the past – more than we had hoped – so this will give us better leveraging ability.”

A partner from one of the appointed panel firms commented: “As a new GC this is part of his strategy to formalise things and get greater purchasing power.”

Amsden joined Morrisons as GC in February from Addleshaw Goddard, where he was a partner specialising in commercial litigation. His move came as the retailer embarked on a range of expansionist deals. 

It bought 49 Blockbuster stores from the company’s administrators in February. Wragges led on the deal, which was part of the expansion of the Morrisons M local convenience store portfolio. It followed the purchase of seven stores formerly owned by camera store Jessops – another retailer in administration.

In May Morrisons signed a deal to launch an online grocery service with Ocado next year. 

Ashurst took the lead role for Morrisons while Slaughter and May advised Ocado. The deal included a sale and leaseback of equipment at internet grocer Ocado’s recently opened Dordon distribution centre in Warwickshire. Morrisons will make an initial payment of up to £170m to acquire the Dordon base along with mechanical and handling equipment, as well as a licence and a handling fee. A further £46m will be invested to expand Dordon and establish a delivery network.