David Montgomery eyes Lepe back into the newspaper world

David Hellier
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It would be no exaggeration to say that the boutique investment banks are hurting due to the dearth of deal activity but in their favour they have increased their market share of deals and every so often they pop up quite spectacularly when one is least expecting them.

Hence when BP bought (and then later sold) its stake in BP-TNK it mandated Lambert Energy to advise it on the deal along with others. Similarly, and equally noteworthy, Michael Klein’s boutique Klein & Co was instrumental in first getting the chief executives of Glencore and Xstrata together for its mega merger. When relations deteriorated later in the deal, it was the unusual intervention of former PM Tony Blair that managed to get the deal back on track.

Earlier this year Centreview Partners advised Alliance Boots on its sale to Walgreen’s of the US thanks to the long association of banker Richard Gurling with the target company. Boutiques offer independence and pure corporate finance support but obviously lack the balance sheet strength of the bulge bracket banks.

Now I hear that the former Mirror Group chief executive David Montgomery has hired Lepe Partners to advise him on the acquisition of Northcliffe Newspapers from DMGT.

Lepe was started by two former executives from Long Acre. Its advisory board includes media luminaries such as Brent Hoberman, the co-founder of Lastminute.com and Michael Jackson, the ex C4 chief executive officer.

Founder Johnny Goodwin, whose clients have included the former TalkSport chief executive Kelvin MacKenzie (also a friend), left Jefferies when it became clear it wanted to focus on larger companies. “Lepe is here to act for and help entrepreneurs,” Goodwin told me this week, without confirming a role in the Northcliffe transaction. “We’re focused on going on journeys with entrepreneurs.” Also acting on the deal, I hear, is City veteran Nick Wells, whose journeys in the past have included being with the likes of retail tycoon Sir Philip Green and Michael Ashcroft, who appears to be one of the backers of any bid Montgomery might make.

Montgomery’s track record as a businessman might be mixed but there’s no doubt he knows a lot about newspapers and the technological changes shaping the industry.

After the drama of last week’s announcement by UBS that it is planning to cut 10,000 staff worldwide, new investment banking boss, the charismatic Andrea Orcel, this week went about the difficult task of trying to raise morale.

In the early part of the week Orcel addressed a group of around 500 senior London-based employees at a meeting at the Honourable Artillery Company at which he stressed the bank had a bright future in corporate finance and wasn’t going to surrender its rich heritage. “The investment bank isn’t being shut down and don’t let anybody convince you that it is,” said Orcel, in a speech described as very vibrant and up-lifting. He then got on a plane to New York, where he performed the same task there.