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07 September 2016

SABMiller confirms mass in-house redundancies to accompany Davidson departure

The beverage giant has confirmed that at least 35 in-house lawyers will be made redundant upon the finalisation of its merger with Anheuser-Busch InBev in October.

By Kathryn Higgins

Natalya Okorokova

The redundancies form part of a company-wide structural overhaul that will also see SABMiller general counsel John Davidson stand down next year once the merger is complete. Senior lawyers have already been notified of the lay-offs by Mr Davidson himself, though consultations are still ongoing and staff won’t be formally notified of the management’s decision until the middle of next month. SABMiller company secretary and deputy general counsel Stephen Shapiro has already been confirmed as one of those affected by the lay-offs, as well as deputy GC for M&A Stephen Jones and deputy GC for regulatory and industry affairs John Fraser. The company has indicated that up to 35 in-house staff will be likely be affected by the cuts.

Combination structure

The £79bn merger between AB InBev and SABMiller will see the combined company’s operations shifted gradually to AB InBev’s headquarters in Belgium. UK-based SABMiller’s headquarters in Woking are to be kept open for a ‘transitional period’ before eventually closing, while the company’s global hubs in Miami, Hong Kong and Beijing are also to be phased out within months of the combination. Last month, it was confirmed that AB InBev chief legal and corporate affairs officer Sabine Chalmers will be taking the reins as general counsel of the newly merged company, while Mr Davidson will step down within six months of the deal’s completion.

Massive legal bills

News of the redundancies comes as it has emerged that law firms involved in the history-making megadeal stand to reap at least $261m in legal fees for their advice on the deal. The figure represents around 13 per cent of the mammoth $2bn of professional advisory fees paid by AB InBev and SABMiller in relation to the transaction. Outside legal teams from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath, Swaine & Moore led advice to AB InBev for the deal, while Clifford Chance was tasked with advising the Brussels-based company’s controlling shareholders. London-based SABMiller, on the other hand, turned to Linklaters and Hogan Lovells for its outside legal advice, with shareholders in the company advised by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Sources: Legal Business; Corporate Counsel; American Lawyer

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