One of the more desirable law firms to work for, Olswang has
enjoyed a listing in Sunday Times' "Best 100 Companies to
Work For" for five years. Considered a trendy firm with an unstuffy
culture, Olswang is best known for its expertise in the technology,
media and real estate sectors. The firm has a substantial
litigation practice, a significant presence in the corporate realm
and a growing international network. Clients include BBC, Channel
4, Graphite Capital Management, M&C Saatchi, MTV Networks
Europe, RDF Media, Tottenham Hotspur FC, the British Greyhound
Racing Board and Vodafone.
Working the media angle
Olswang began life in 1981 as a film financing and entertainment
practice. Founded by Simon Olswang and current Senior Partner Mark
Devereux, the firm focused its attention on the developing
communications, media and technology sectors in the booming 1980s.
This was an unusual move for City firms at the time. Rapid growth
ensued until 2000, by which time the firm had made a significant
name for itself and outstripped rival firms.
In 2001, the dot-com crash proved a major setback to the firm's
profits, and Olswang reacted by broadening its practice. After
bringing a large property team on board in 2003, the firm acquired
real estate boutique Julian Holy Solicitors two years later. In
2007, Olswang opened an office in Berlin, its second Continental
outpost following the launch of a Brussels office in 1999. Very
quickly, profits began to rise once again. By 2008, Olswang's
10-partner team of 1991 had swelled to more than 100.
Olswang's corporate clout owes much to the restructuring efforts
undertaken by corporate chief Fabrizio Carpanini in 2007, who
arranged the corporate practice into focus groups, each centred on
one of the firm's key sectors: technology, leisure, retail, real
estate, media and telecommunications.
Eyes on Europe
Olswang made a strong recruitment drive in 2008, taking on 107
new staff and making up 10 new partners, the largest number ever
promoted at the firm. Overseas, thanks to the addition of teams
from Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Olswang's
Berlin office doubled to include 28 lawyers. In 2010, the firm
entered into a non-exclusive alliance with Silicon Valley tech firm
Cooley LLP. That same year, the firm opened an office in Madrid,
followed the next year by an office in Paris. Also in 2011, Olswang
set up an IP-focused office in Munich to better serve clients by
having a presence at the seat of the European Patent Office.
Olswang reported solid figures for the 2009-10 fiscal year, and
turnover for the following year inched up as well, with
international revenue again making a strong showing. Reflecting the
firm's strategy to expand its overseas network, in 2011 the
partnership agreed to invest 10 per cent of net profit into
Top Gear's new garage
In a deal announced in August 2011, Olswang advised long-time
client BBC Worldwide, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British
Broadcasting Corp, on the sale and licensing of its consumer
magazine business to Exponent Private Equity. Exponent will take
over 11 BBC Worldwide titles, including Radio Times, while
other BBC-branded magazines, such as Gardeners' World and
Top Gear, will be published under licensing or publishing
contract arrangements. Exponent will also acquire Origin Publishing
(in which BBC Worldwide holds a minority stake), as well as BBC
Magazines' stakes in Dovetail, a subscriptions fulfilment company,
and Frontline, a distribution business. In addition, BBC Worldwide
agreed to sell its 50 per cent share in Worldwide Media, a joint
venture in India, to fellow shareholder and owner of The Times
of India, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.
In a separate transaction, Olswang also advised BBC Worldwide in
relation to the sale by Virgin Media of its 50 per cent stake in
UKTV to US company Scripps Networks Interactive for £339 million.
BBC Worldwide owns the remaining 50 per cent of UKTV, one of the
largest television companies in the UK.
News Corp buys Shine
In April 2011, Olswang advised Shine Group, a global television
production company, on its £415 million sale to News Corp. With
Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch,
as Shine's majority shareholder, the sale met with some
controversy. Olswang has advised Shine since its incorporation in
2001. Among the production company's best-known TV shows are
"MasterChef", "Spooks", "The Biggest Loser" and "Got to Dance".
Can't beat that deal
In 2011, Olswang completed a number of M&A transactions in
the e-commerce sector. In January, the firm advised the
shareholders of goviral, which distributes branded video content on
the internet, on its $96.7 million sale to AOL Europe. That same
month, the firm helped LivingSocial, the Amazon-backed social
commerce site, acquire a majority stake in Let's Bonus, a
Barcelona-based start-up that offers discounts for gourmet
restaurants, luxury spas and romantic destinations. The addition of
Let's Bonus gives LivingSocial more than 16 million subscribers in
In August 2011, Olswang acted for eConversions Ltd on the sale
of the websites VoucherCodes.co.uk and Gutschein-Codes.de to
WhaleShark Media Inc, owner of the largest portfolio of online
coupon and deal sites in the world. VoucherCodes.co.uk is the UK's
top online coupon website; Gutschein-Codes.de provides access to
online coupons and deals in Germany.