Storied English soccer team Manchester United has turned to Latham & Watkins’s U.S. capital markets practice for counsel on its effort to raise at least $100 million on the New York Stock Exchange through an initial public offering.
Latham beat out two other firms to land the assignment advising the English Premier League franchise, according a source familiar with the proposed public listing by Man U, which lost in May the  Premier League title in agonizing fashion to archrival Manchester City.
Latham’s ties to U.S. soccer probably didn’t hurt the firm’s efforts to win the Man U work. Most recently, the U.S. bid committee vying for the 2022 World Cup counted Latham as an official partner in that ultimately unsuccessful effort, as the Persian Gulf state of Qatar nabbed the hosting honors for the enormously popular global competition held every four years.
Latham has handled several significant matters for the U.S. Soccer Federation over the course of its  relationship with the sport’s governing body in this country. In addition to serving as outside counsel to U.S. Soccer on the 2022 World Cup bid, Los Angeles–based Latham corporate partner Paul Tosetti, the former cochair of the firm’s global M&A practice, advised the organization on its successful effort to bring the competition to the United States nearly 20 years ago.
Alan Rothenberg, a Latham litigation partner who retired in 2000 after serving as president of U.S. Soccer, also played a key role in bringing the 1994 World Cup to the U.S. Latham reaped millions in legal fees from the assignment, and Rothenberg went on to found Major League Soccer—another Latham client—with the former litigator’s name once gracing the trophy awarded annually to the winner of the league’s championship. (MLS president Mark Abbott was an associate at Latham under Rothenberg.)
But another former Latham lawyer, Ivan Gazidis, boasts a strong link of his own to British football. Gazidis was an associate in Latham’s Los Angeles on secondment from Travers Smith in the early nineties when he was first exposed to the firm’s work for U.S. Soccer. Gazidis later became deputy commissioner for MLS, where he helped the league sign former Man U star David Beckham. In late 2008, Gazidis became CEO of Arsenal, a London-based team that for many years enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Man U.
According to an F-1 filing submitted by Man U to the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 3, Latham global capital markets cochair Marc Jaffe and deputy New York office managing partner Ian Schuman are advising the team on the proposed IPO, along with former senior SEC official Alexander Cohen, once a partner in Latham’s London office and now the cochair of its operations in Washington, D.C. Man U was publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange until 2005, when the family of U.S. billionaire Malcolm Glazer bought the team for nearly $1.5 billion
Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy, one of several firms that worked on that deal, advised Glazer on his debt-laden acquisition of Man U. Glazer’s ownership of the team hasn’t been popular among its diehard supporters. The club’s debt load reached $1.17 billion by mid-2009, according to the BBC, prompting an early 2010 bond offering aimed at paying down the bulk of that outstanding debt.
While Allen & Overy advised Man U on the roughly $775 million bond sale, Latham took the lead for a consortium of banks acting as joint lead managers on the offering, according to a story at the time by U.K. publication Legal Week. In the months that followed, a group led by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner Mark Rawlinson calling themselves the “ Red Knights” mounted an unsolicited bid to take control of the team.
But Glazer’s asking price proved to be too much for the Red Knights, and the Rawlinson-led group abandoned their bid to buy the team by mid-2010. Man U, which plays at the venerable 75,000-seat Old Trafford, subsequently reviewed its outside legal advisers, according to Legal Week.
One of those firms making the team’s legal roster, Liverpool-based Brabners Chaffe Street, is the home of joint senior partner Maurice Watkins, who stepped down from Man U’s board of directors last month after 28 years with the team. According to a copy of Man U’s F-1, the team paid Brabners Chaffe Street more than $490,000 last year, and roughly $1.8 million in legal fees dating back to 2009. (Legal fees related to the club’s upcoming IPO have not yet been disclosed.)
Man U had approximately $541 million in sales through the year ending March 31, 2012, and the team’s current debt load stands at roughly $660 million, according to its F-1 filing. The club, which with  659 million supporters scattered across the globe considers itself the world’s most popular soccer team, is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and plans to use the proceeds from its public listing to pay down some of its debt obligations, according to its SEC filing. Patrick Stewart serves as the team’s director of legal and business affairs.
Offshore firm Walkers is serving as Cayman counsel to Man U on its IPO, while Rochester, New York–based Woods Oviatt Gilman is providing counsel to longtime clients the Glazer family. The proposed public listing comes after volatile market conditions led the team to delay plans to raise up to $1 billion through an IPO in Singapore last year. ( Legal Week reported that Allen & Overy, not Latham, was set to take the lead for Man U on that would-be Singapore listing.)
Davis Polk & Wardwell global capital markets cohead Michael Kaplan and corporate partner John Meade in New York are advising underwriters for Man U’s IPO led by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and Jefferies & Company.