Magic circle and US firms leading on Unilever’s £6.5bn auction of its spreads business

Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett are playing key roles on Unilever’s auction of its £6.5bn spreads division.

The consumer goods giant is auctioning its margarine and spreads business, which includes products Flora and Stork, for about £6.5bn.

Sky News first reported that the final bidders for the business are private equity houses Apollo Global, CVC Capital Partners, KKR and Platinum Equity.

Unilever announced its plans to sell its spreads business in April, two months after US giant Kraft Heinz’s unsuccessful £115bn merger bid for Unilever in February.

Linklaters is acting for Unilever on the auction, with the firm’s co-head of consumer Paul McNicholl and London corporate partner Matthew Bland advising.

Freshfields is advising CVC with a team led by City private equity partner Charles Hayes.

Simpson Thacher is advising regular client KKR with a team including London private equity partner Ian Barratt and M&A partner Clare Gaskell.

While it is unclear which other firms are playing roles, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison regularly acts for Apollo and Baker Mckenzie has advised Platinum Equity on previous transactions.

Slaughter and May has traditionally been the main corporate adviser to Unilever, but Linklaters has picked up a number of key mandates for the company in recent years.

A Linklaters team led by corporate head Aedamar Comiskey and corporate partners McNicholl and Nick Rumsby led on the defence of the Kraft Heinz bid earlier this year.

Other work the magic circle firm has done for the company includes advising on a $5.4bn (£4.5bn) deal to increase its stake in Hindustan Unilever, the publicly listed Indian subsidiary of the consumer goods giant, and acting on Unilever’s €390m (£330m) acquisition of an 82% stake in Russian beauty company Concern Kalina in 2011.

All firms declined to comment. Unilever did not respond to requests for comment.

Photo credit: Sean Biehle