Skadden and Cleary advise French giants LVMH and Accor on deal to revive Orient Express brand

US law firms step in as French groups team up on relaunch of historic brand that will operate luxury train routes, cruises and hotels
ISTANBUL, TR - Sep 02, 2022: The Venice Simplon Orient Express train in Istanbul, Turkey

The Venice Simplon Orient Express is operated by LVMH's Belmond brand

Top US law firms Skadden and Cleary Gottlieb have advised on a strategic investment by LVMH in Accor’s Orient Express brand to help accelerate its growth. 

Skadden is advising LVMH on the deal, whose financial terms have not been disclosed, while a team from Cleary is advising Accor, which acquired the Orient Express in 2022 with a view to reviving the brand.

The Wall Street firms are longstanding advisers to the respective French conglomerates. 

Accor is planning to launch two Orient Express-branded train services next year: the Orient Express, running between Paris and Istanbul, and the Orient Express La Dolce Vita, which is set to operate nine routes in Italy.

It is also planning to open three hotels by 2025 and operate the world’s largest sailing ships: the first of two planned is currently under construction in Saint-Nazaire, France, and slated to be launched in 2026. The two groups say they will seek a third partner for the ship venture.

The Skadden team advising LVMH included, in Paris, partner Armand Grumberg, and counsel Guillaume Goubeaux, Aurore Martinelli, Samia Makhtoum and Rayan Rifai, on the corporate aspects. The team also included Brussels partners Frederic Depoortere and Niels Baeten.

The Cleary team advising Accor included corporate partner Pierre-Yves Chabert and associates Anton Nothias and Johanna Jumelet. Partner Séverine Schrameck and associate Chloé Delay advised Accor on antitrust matters. Partner Anne-Sophie Coustel and associate Mathilde Philippe advised on tax matters. Senior attorney Jérôme Hartemann advised on employment law.

As an investor, LVMH brings its expertise to the brand’s hotels, trains and ships. The conglomerate has a wealth of experience in these three fields. LVMH’s two hotel brands, Cheval Blanc and Belmond, collectively run more than 50 luxury properties. Belmond also manages the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and five other luxury trains across the world. In addition, LVMH owns upscale yacht maker Royal Van Lent.

French multinational Accor, meanwhile, is the largest hospitality company in Europe and owns, manages and franchises hotels, resorts and vacation properties. Within its luxury and lifestyle division it brings together a collection of luxury brands in the hotel and fine dining sectors including Raffles, Fairmont and Potel & Chabot.

In a statement, Bernard Arnault, LVMH Group Chairman and CEO, said: “Orient Express has embodied adventure and elegance since its origins. Its name has become part of our cultural heritage and remains a source of inspiration for the greatest artists. We are delighted to be partnering with Accor to accelerate the renewal of this travel icon. Each of our groups will bring the best of its expertise to take Orient Express to the pinnacle of the art of hospitality.”

In March, Cleary represented Accor in its off-market block purchase of 2.77% of its share capital from Jinjiang International. The share repurchase, which amounted to €275 million, is part of the €400 million share buyback program of Accor for 2024. Following the transaction and cancellation of the repurchased shares, Jinjiang International’s stake in Accor was reduced from 7.96% to 5.33% of the share capital. In a mega deal which closed in 2021, Skadden advised LVMH on its $16.2 billion acquisition of Tiffany & Co. Partners Armand Grumberg and Arash Attar-Rezvani in Paris led the firm's team representing LVMH along with partners Howard Ellin and Sean Doyle in New York.

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