20/11/2007 - 22:00

Key appointments at advisory firms

20/11/2007 - 22:00

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

Key appointments at advisory firms

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-significant, 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, although 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 Perth office is not significantly involved in the firms advice to BHP on its takeover bid for Rio Tinto Ltd.

Freehills has also been busy in the local arena, but 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 Subiaco-based resources player Summit Resources Ltd. Paladin ended up with a controlling stake in Summit.

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.

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