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Clifford Chance dominates private equity real estate awards

Sister publication PERE handed out plaudits for law firms across three regions.

READ THE WINNERS IN OTHER ASSET CLASSES

Private equity

Infrastructure

Private debt

Law Firm of the Year: Fund Formation, Europe

1 Clifford Chance

2 Goodwin Procter

3 Paul Hastings

Clifford Chance has left little room for competition in this category for more than a decade, with 2017 marking the firm’s 11th straight win – a track record unsurpassed by any group in any category. The London-based law firm’s 2017 highlights included a strong focus on debt vehicles, mirroring the interest in private equity real estate fundraising globally.

Clifford Chance’s mandates included advising ICG-Longbow on two funds: the formation of ICG-Longbow Senior Debt Programme, Vintage IV, a £500 million ($704 million; €563 million) platform investing in UK-domiciled senior real estate debt opportunities; and UK Real Estate Debt Investments V, a mezzanine debt fund targeting £500 million. Partner Gerard Saviola led the ICG-Longbow fund efforts. The law firm’s other work included AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets’ July close of its €1.5 billion 10th vehicle in the CRE Loans SCS-SIF series, overseen by partner Alexandre Lagarrigue. The real estate debt-focused vehicle closed in September with commitments from 19 institutional investors across Europe.

Law Firm of the Year: Transactions, Europe

1 Clifford Chance

2 Paul Hastings

3 CMS

Clifford Chance again prevailed as the dual Europe winner, picking up its sixth transactions award in 11 years. Paul Hastings, the 2015 winner, again proved the law firm’s toughest competition. But given Clifford Chance’s hand in some of Europe’s bigger transactions with the continent’s biggest names, it is little surprise the firm again came out on top.

In one highlight, the law firm advised Patron Capital in its purchase of Punch Taverns, overseen by partners David Pearson and Lee Coney. Patron bought the company, valued at £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion; €2 billion), before selling part of the business to Dutch beer company Heineken. The firm also advised Parkdean Resorts, which managed 73 caravan holiday parks across England, Scotland and Wales, on its sale to Onex. The £1.35 billion deal closed in the first quarter of 2017. The firm rounded out its non-traditional real estate focus by advising Blackstone on the purchase of The Office Group, which manages 36 serviced office buildings across central London. Partner Spencer Baylin worked on that deal.

Law Firm of the Year: Fund Formation, North America

1 Clifford Chance

2 Simpson Thacher

3 Morrison & Foerster

Its rivals in the category may have represented bigger names in the private equity real estate industry, but Clifford Chance nonetheless prevailed for its fund formation activities in North America. Among the fund managers the firm advised were Berkshire Group, which raised $1.05 billion in the first and second closes in September and October for its first debt fund, Berkshire Multifamily Debt Fund II, against a $1.25 billion hard-cap. The fund, which will focus on investments in Freddie Mac-sponsored multifamily debt products and other debt investments secured by multifamily real estate – represented the largest-ever capital raise for the firm.

Clifford Chance – whose US private funds practice is led by partner Roger Singer – also advised Basis Investment Group, a New York-based woman- and minority-owned private equity real estate firm, on the formation of its debt-focused debut real estate fund, BIG Real Estate Fund I, which had $400 million equity goal and attracted $185 million in its first close in November. The firm also worked with Exeter Property Group, which held a final close on $1.275 billion for Exeter Industrial Value Fund IV.

Law Firm of the Year: Transactions, North America

1 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

2 Mayer Brown

3 King & Spalding

Just as Blackstone has consistently stood out for its dealmaking, so has Simpson Thacher in its legal representation of the industry heavyweight’s major real estate transactions in North America. Far and away the largest of these deals last year was the $20 billion merger between Invitation Homes – which was 70 percent-owned by Blackstone prior to the deal close – and Starwood Waypoint, marking the largest-ever investment in the single-family rental property sector.

Simpson Thacher also acted as Blackstone’s legal advisor in its acquisition of a portfolio of 64 senior living properties from healthcare real estate investment trust HCP for $1.125 billion. The transaction, which closed in March, also included the formation of a joint venture between Blackstone and Brookdale Senior Living to own and operate the portfolio.

Additionally, Simpson Thacher worked on Blackstone’s acquisition of International Market Centers, the world’s largest owner and operator of showroom space for the furnishings, home decor and gift industries, from Bain Capital Private Equity and Oaktree Capital Management, in a deal that closed in September.

Law Firm of the Year: Fund Formation, Asia

1 Clifford Chance

2 Paul Hastings

3 Simpson Thacher

Taking the top spot in this category is global law firm Clifford Chance, whose fund formation team worked on at least five pan-Asia real estate vehicles across different investment strategies in 2017. The largest of these vehicles was UK bank Standard Chartered’s Principal Finance Real Estate unit’s launch of a $1 billion pan-Asia real estate fund. Kai Schneider, managing partner of the firm’s Singapore office led this deal.

Clifford Chance also advised on the formation of Chelsfield’s debut Asia vehicle, which was led by partner Matt Feldmann. The London-headquartered manager purchased Dymon Asia’s real estate investment management business in late 2016, and then went on to launch Chelsfield Asia Fund I with a $500 million target. Additionally, the law firm was involved in the establishment of Hong Kong-based manager Phoenix Property Investors’ $300 million mezzanine-focused real estate fund.

Clifford Chance has nine offices across six Asia-Pacific countries and its fund formation team in the region is led by Mark Shipman.

Law Firm of the Year: Transactions, Asia

Mayer Brown JSM

Morrison & Foerster

Paul Hastings

Mayer Brown JSM defends the top spot as the leading real estate transactions law firm in Asia. Under the leadership of Keith Cheung, who heads the law firm’s Asia real estate practice, Mayer Brown JSM worked on some key deals in Hong Kong, China and elsewhere in the region last year, advising on several exits for Phoenix Property Investors as well as multiple acquisitions on behalf of AEW Asia and Pamfleet.

Most notable was the law firm’s involvement in the $588 million sale of Metropolitan Plaza  to Asia’s largest real estate investment trust Link REIT in April last year. The sale of the 955,916-square-foot, four-level shopping mall in Guangzhou is believed to be one of the largest mall transactions in southern China in recent years. Mayer Brown JSM’s Hong Kong-based partner Ricky Yiu advised on the transaction.