Freehills adds new partner as Mannolini heads to Gresham

20/11/2007 - 15:16


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The booming advisory market in Perth is creating some musical chairs among the key players, with corporate lawyer Justin Mannolini heading to Gresham Advisory Partners Ltd, prompting Freehills to fill the vacancy by appointing a new partner, Simon Reed.

The booming advisory market in Perth is creating some musical chairs among the key players, with corporate lawyer Justin Mannolini heading to Gresham Advisory Partners Ltd, prompting Freehills to fill the vacancy by appointing a new partner, Simon Reed.

Mr Reed returns to Perth from Melbourne where he was recently involved in the Singapore Power/Babcock & Brown acquisition of Alinta Ltd as well as Deutsche Bank's acquisition of a majority interest in Perth-based Crescent Gold Ltd. He joins David Gray and Andrew Shearwood at the head of Freehills' 15-strong corporate finance practice in Perth.

Mr Mannolini joins the likes Michael Ashforth, Jenny Seabrook and Julian Mills as a Perth-based director of the corporate advisory business, a major part of Gresham Partners Group Ltd which is 50 per cent-owned by Wesfarmers Ltd.

His move follows that of Mr Ashforth who left Freehills in 1996 to establish Gresham's presence in Perth.

Since then, the Perth office of Gresham has become a significant contributor to the investment banking business, perhaps most notably in 2001 when local advisers were involved in the merger of BHP Ltd and Billiton plc to form global mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd.

The past few years have been exceptionally busy for many Perth merchant banks, but it would be hard to top 2007 for Gresham. During the year work on a bundle of locally-siginificant, resources-sector transactions has been overshadowed by a role in advising Wesfarmers on its $20 billion acquisition of Coles Group Ltd.

The Coles deal is expected to generate fees of around $400 million, to be shared by several advisory firms - though Wesfarmers' advisors, Gresham and Macquarie Bank, will be expected to earn a big success fee. Ms Seabrook is understood to have played a significant role in that process.

Gresham's Perth office is not significantly involved in the firm's advice to BHP on its takeover bid for Rio Tinto Ltd.

Freehills has also been busy in the local arena, though it was on the opposite side of the fence to Gresham when it came to advising on Palandin Resources Ltd's takeover bid for fellow Subicao-based resources player Summit Resources Ltd. Paladin ended up with a controlling stake in Summit.

Freehills head of Perth office John Atkins said Mr Mannolini's move was something that had been expected as part of a long agreed career plan.

Mr Mannolini has been with Freehills for about 10 years, returning to Perth in 2003 after six years in Sydney. In 2004 he became Freehills' most senior M&A lawyer in WA when 15-year veteran Rob Franklyn left to establish boutique practice Franklyn Legal.

Mr Reed started at Parker & Parker in 1997, just before it became part of Freehills with a merger of local offices to form Perth-based practice which briefly had 57 partners. His addition to the partnership will take the firm to 34 partners in WA, about 50 per cent more than its nearest rival.



Below is the announcement from Freehills:

Freehills announced this week that senior corporate lawyer, Simon Reed, will return from Freehills' Melbourne office to Perth (his home town) to join the local Corporate practice as Partner from 1 January 2008.
Simon commenced articles with Parker & Parker in 1997, shortly before the merger that created Freehills.
In 2000-2001 Simon worked in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's corporate practice in London, quickly assumed high levels of responsibility on significant transactions, including major mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and was highly regarded by that firm's senior partners. He returned to Freehills' Perth office in April 2002 where he worked in the Corporate practice, and in February 2004 he was seconded to the Takeovers Panel in Melbourne for a 12 month period.
Following this secondment, Simon remained in Melbourne, working in the firm's Corporate practice and continuing to build his experience in high profile M&A transactions, including the Singapore Power/Babcock & Brown acquisition of Alinta and Deutsche Bank's acquisition of a majority interest in Crescent Gold.
Simon will be joining David Gray and Andrew Shearwood in Perth's corporate finance practice, which provides M&A, public company advisory, funds management and equity capital markets (ECM) expertise.
Recent significant transactions that the Freehills team has advised on includes:
- Mount Gibson Iron's successful hostile bid for Aztec Resources Limited
- Paladin Limited's takeover of Summit Resources Limited
- Wesfarmers Ltd's $500 million acquisition of Coregas Pty Ltd (previously Linde Gas); and
- acting for the administrators of Sons of Gwalia Limited on the successful sale of Talison Ltd, its advanced minerals division.
Simon's return will maintain the strength and depth of the Corporate practice following the announcement of the imminent retirement of Freehills' partner Justin Mannolini.
Justin will retire from Freehills' partnership to pursue a career in investment banking. He leaves the firm on 30 November 2007 and will join the Perth office of Gresham Advisory Partners Limited as Executive Director in January 2008.
Freehills looks forward to a continuing relationship with Justin as he enters a new stage of his career. He leaves with Freehills' best wishes for his future and the acknowledgment of his significant contribution to the development and success of the firm's Corporate practice (particularly in the M&A and ECM areas), and its sustained premier position in industry league tables.


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