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Robert Fleming Holdings has turned to Allen & Overy (A&O) to advise on its proposed takeover by Chase Manhattan Bank – negotiations that could signal the final chapter to 127 years of investment banking history in the City.A Legal Week source in Flemings’ legal department confirmed that A&O had been instructed ahead of Flemings’ usual corporate adviser, Linklaters & Alliance, which has advised the bank for decades. A&O is understood to have built a relationship with the bank after advising on its acquisition of Jardine Fleming from Hong Kong conglomerate Jardine Matheson for £180m in 1998. In that deal Linklaters is believed to have faced a conflict as it was already advising Jardine Matheson. The source at Flemings said A&O was instructed just over two months ago.A&O corporate partner, Jonathan Gould, is leading the team and is faced by Clifford Chance’s (CC’s) head of corporate, David Childs, on the other side. Chase is one of CC’s biggest clients and worth more than £10m a year in fees to the firm. Although both banks have confirmed the talks, a statement issued by Flemings said: “Discussions are at an early stage and no further announcement will be made unless and until appropriate.” If Chase buys Fleming it would be the second independent UK house this year to fall to a US group. In January, Schroders, led by Slaughter and May, sold its investment banking business for £1.35bn to Citigroup represented by Norton Rose. Up until now, Flemings has success-fully fought off other takeover offers from a number of banks, including Goldman Sachs. At present the Fleming family still controls 29% of the group, but Jardine Matheson has about 18% and staff and institutional investors hold the balance.

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