Russell McVeagh was last night named Large Law Firm of the Year and Employer of Choice at the New Zealand Law Awards 2020, and recognised for its role in market-leading deals, particularly for New Zealand's major infrastructure projects – winning Project Finance Deal of the Year and multiple Excellence Awards in this category.
Large Law Firm of the Year
This award recognises expertise across a range of practice areas, and for Russell McVeagh this includes transactions for major corporates, Government projects of national significance, key infrastructure projects to help shape New Zealand, and work to support New Zealand's response to COVID-19, with some highlights of this including:
Advising Trade Me on its $2.6 billion contested public takeover under a scheme of arrangement by UK-based Apax Partners, and Samling Group on the share sale of Hikurangi Forest Farms, the largest forestry transaction in 2019 – both were awarded M&A Deal of the Year Excellence awards;
Advising the Government on the roll out of satellite technology that will be able to pinpoint a location on Earth to within 10 centimeters, unlocking more than NZ$7.5 billion in benefits;
Advising stakeholders on infrastructure projects including Auckland's City Rail Link (winner of the Project Finance Deal of the Year award - more on this below), $703 million International Convention Centre, $790 million Westfield in Newmarket, $1 billion Commercial Bay waterfront development, the America's Cup village, and the US$300 million Southern Cross Cable Network between New Zealand, the United States and Australia (winner of the Project Finance Deal of the Year excellence award); and
Pro bono work supporting organisations such as Cure Kids, Ākina Foundation, Diversity Works, and others making a difference in our communities.
"Winning Large Law Firm of the Year is a testament to our firm's talented lawyers who work on major transactions and matters that are helping to shape New Zealand," Russell McVeagh CEO Jo Avenell said. "I am immensely proud of the team for their hard work and continuous commitment, delivering exceptional results for our clients, particularly throughout the challenges of this year."
Employer of Choice (> 100 lawyers)
This award is judged across a range of aspects such as employee engagement and retention, diversity and inclusion, remuneration and benefits, training and development, leadership, reward and recognition and work-life balance, each of which Russell McVeagh has put a great deal of emphasis on with its Culture Transformation Programme.
"We have put in a significant amount of hard work into our culture transformation over the last few years. I am incredibly proud of how everyone has participated and the progress we have made. It's encouraging to see the positive feedback we are hearing from our people and seeing from our staff engagement results," said Avenell. "This award is a result of everyone's collective hard work and commitment to make Russell McVeagh a law firm that everyone is proud to be associated with and where our people can thrive."
Russell McVeagh's role in many of New Zealand's biggest infrastructure projects is recognised with the firm winning Project Finance Deal of the Year for Auckland's City Rail Link in its work for KiwiRail, with partner Mei Fern Johnson working closely with the internal legal team at KiwiRail. The City Rail Link is the largest transport infrastructure project ever to be undertaken in New Zealand and will allow the network to double its rail capacity.
Additionally, the firm received Excellence Awards for its role in the Waipipi Wind Farm and Southern Cross Cable transactions. The Southern Cross Cable is a significant infrastructure project which will see a new, approximately US$300 million, undersea internet cable run between New Zealand, the United States and Australia. Led by Corporate partner Ian Beaumont and Banking and Finance partner Tom Hunt, the firm acted for Spark New Zealand as the majority shareholder in this deal, which made Telstra a 25% shareholder of Southern Cross and an anchor customer of SX NEXT. The deal was also recently recognised at The Asset Triple A Asia Infrastructure Awards 2020 as Telecom Deal of the Year.
Russell McVeagh advised on 12 deals that received finalist placings ahead of the Awards and, in addition to the three Project Finance Deal of the Year Awards, won 5 Excellence Awards for deals in their respective categories as follows:
Dual ASX/NZX-listed Kathmandu agreed to acquire Rip Curl for A$350 million ($368 million) in November 2019. The transaction was financed through the Accelerated Renounceable Entitlement Offer (AREO), and placement of approximately $32 million of Kathmandu shares to the founders and CEO of Rip Curl. Approximately $230 million of the acquisition price was funded through secured debt facilities. Partner David Raudkivi led our team working on this deal.
Led by Banking and Finance partner Deemple Budhia, Russell McVeagh's team advised on the LGFA syndicated bonds offer, which comprised LGFA's first two syndicated offers of bonds. The initial bond issue of $1 billion was the largest single issue of bonds in the New Zealand domestic debt market by a non-sovereign issuer.
The NZ$2.56 billion sale of Trade Me to Apax Partners, which partner David Raudkivi advised Trade Me on, was the biggest ever public takeover in New Zealand by scheme of arrangement. It was also one of the largest takeovers in more than 10 years and one of just a few to be contested, with two rival private equity bidders emerging. Also led by David Raudkivi, Russell McVeagh advised Samling in relation to the share sale of the TreeOne (NZ) group of companies (which includes Hikurangi Forest Farms Limited), one of New Zealand's largest forestry estates.
National Practice Group Chair for Corporate, partner David Hoare, led our team advising on the purchase of Frost Fans, which produces crop protection technology. Funds managed and advised by Pencarrow acquired a 75% stake in this innovative New Zealand company in 2019.
In addition, Russell McVeagh's Corporate Advisory team was recognised with an Excellence Award. Hoare said, "I am incredibly proud of the team and the exceptional standard they hold themselves to. We are privileged to work on these market-leading deals and I want to thank our clients for allowing us these opportunities."
Russell McVeagh would like to congratulate all the in-house teams and individual in-house lawyers recognised, as well as the winner of Russell McVeagh In-House Team of the Year, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.
"Well done to everyone on another big year and the successes shared at the New Zealand Law Awards," Avenell added. "It is fantastic to celebrate achievements in a year which has presented many challenges."
The full list of winners can be viewed here.