Gowling WLG advises Avison Young on definitive agreement to acquire GVA in transformational deal

5 minute read
09 November 2018

Gowling WLG has advised Avison Young on its definitive agreement with Apleona Group GmbH (“Apleona”), a portfolio company owned by global private-equity firm EQT, to acquire GVA, a subsidiary of Apleona and one of the UK's leading and most diverse real estate advisory-led businesses.

Avison Young, which is headquartered in Toronto in Canada, is the world’s fastest-growing commercial real estate services firm and will combine GVA with Avison Young’s existing UK operations. Subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2019.

GVA is a multi-disciplinary business offering clients a service that spans the entire property life cycle from strategy and planning through to delivery and management. The firm has 1,500 employees in 15 offices in the UK, Ireland and Poland. GVA is also a founding member and majority shareholder of GVA Worldwide Ltd., an international organisation of licensed affiliate commercial real estate companies with offices across 25 countries.

Gowling WLG corporate partner Chris Towle and associate Rachel Mobberley led a cross firm team on the transaction. Chris said: "Led by Head of International Real Estate, Sally Pinkerton, Gowling WLG has been instructed by Avison Young on this international transaction as part of the company's global expansion.

“This latest deal is one of the most high profile corporate transactions in the real estate sector in the last 12 months and we're delighted to be assisting Avison Young, working closely alongside the in-house legal team of Robert Slaughter (CLO), Elissa Port, Michael Eurich and Nicole White, every step of the way.

"The company is expanding significantly to service clients globally and to fuel the group's continued aggressive growth. The acquisition of GVA will firmly establish Avison Young's UK business as among the top commercial real estate advisors in the UK."

Avison Young currently has 2,700 real estate professionals in 85 offices in Canada, the US, Mexico, the UK, Germany, Romania and Korea. Upon the closing of the transaction, Avison Young will add 1,500 real estate professionals in 15 offices in the UK, Ireland and Poland. Including GVA Worldwide, the combined operations will have 5,000-plus professionals in more than 120 offices across 25 countries.

Mark E. Rose, Chairman and CEO of Avison Young, said: “We couldn’t be more excited to welcome GVA to Avison Young. This is a transformational event that underpins our ambition and intent to significantly expand our footprint in Europe and beyond. Avison Young’s UK business will now be a genuine challenger brand firmly established among the top commercial real estate advisors in the UK, North America and the world. This acquisition adds gravitas, weight, coverage and profile to our international operations as we continue to solidify our global platform while preserving our culture as a Principal-led company. Avison Young and GVA have complementary businesses in the UK and this combination of expertise and talent will better equip us to serve global clients.

"We are incredibly impressed with the strategic positioning of GVA, represented by its depth of consultancy and transactional services and long-standing client relationships. We are excited by the international collaboration potential and the opportunity to continue to build our unique partnership model. This transaction will restore GVA to its partnership roots and provide additional opportunities to cross sell clients across Avison Young in the UK and globally. Moreover, joining forces with GVA will provide us with a greater level of scale and capabilities to fuel our growth to an even wider audience, and offer an expanded breadth of services to our clients. We look forward to welcoming the highly experienced senior leaders of GVA as Principals and owners of Avison Young, and to working with our new colleagues and clients across the globe."

The scale and depth of GVA's offering is evidenced by the firm's 25 business units across the following sectors and disciplines: planning, development and regeneration; land and development; business rates; valuation consultancy; telecommunications; restructuring and recovery; energy and natural resources; lease consultancy; corporate solutions; health; GVA Worldwide; GVA Poland; Second London Wall project management; building consultancy; rights of light; investment; retail, hotels and leisure; offices; London agency and investment; industrial and distribution; automotive and roadside; property management; workplace consultancy; West End management; and asset management.

GVA has a broad customer portfolio of national and international clients, including UK public institutions, multinational corporations, major space users, developers, owners, lenders and investors.

Credit Suisse and KPMG LLP are acting as Avison Young’s financial advisors in the transaction; and Gowling WLG (UK), DLA Piper LLP (US) and Stikeman Elliott LLP (Canada) are serving as Avison Young's legal advisors. BofA Merrill Lynch is acting as EQT's and Apleona’s financial advisor; and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP is serving as EQT's and Apleona’s legal advisor.

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