Tesco dumps Ashurst as BLP becomes supermarket's go-to property firm

Tesco has dropped Ashurst as its go-to real estate advisers following a review of the supermarket giant’s legal strategy, with Berwin Leighton Paisner set to take the lion’s share of the work.

Tesco has previously used both firms for real estate advice, with Clyde & Co also receiving property work. However, a streamlining of its key legal advisers has resulted in BLP taking on Ashurst’s share, while Clydes will also have its workload slashed in the coming months as the supermarket expects the amount of real estate mandates to tail off.

BLP will now become Tesco’s lead firm for property work in England and Wales. The supermarket cited the firm’s newly opened low-cost Manchester base as a factor in its decision.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer will continue to be the go-to firm for corporate/commercial matters and Squire Sanders will remain on the employment side. Hill Dickinson will continue to provide insurance advice.

The changes are understood to be the outcome of an ongoing review of Tesco’s legal function led by general counsel Adrian Morris, who joined from BP in September 2012 .

Morris said: “We said over a year ago it was the end of the ‘space race’ in UK retail. We are making significant investments in multichannel retail and our legal requirements are evolving. Volumes of real estate legal work are declining and we needed a new model.

“BLP has been our most established relationship and its offering in Manchester gives us an opportunity to get quality service on real estate at a regional cost base. It was the logical thing to do.”

Last year Ashurst took the lead role for Tesco on its purchase of restaurant chain Giraffe and the Euphorium Bakery, as part of a refurbishment programme for Tesco’s existing stores.

BLP, meanwhile, launched its low cost legal centre in Manchester in March as part of a new four-strand approach to servicing clients.

The Manchester office is expected to open in the summer with the firm planning to recruit locally. New recruits will include a mixture of lawyers, paralegals, business services staff and secretaries. BLP will also send some staff from London on secondment to oversee the launch.