Strategically significant deal
CIE Legal represented Optimus Group on its recent acquisition of Autopact in what is a landmark deal for the automotive sector.
In the deal, Japan-listed Automotive supply chain and logistics group Optimus significantly expanded its Australian operations by acquiring a majority share in Autopact, for a value that will be revealed when the deal settles towards the end of 2023. Autopact is one of Australia’s largest motor vehicle dealership groups, with 28 dealerships representing 35 brands across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
The deal is strategically significant for Optimus, as its president Nobuya Yamanaka said in a statement:
“Our planned acquisition of the Autopact business will provide the opportunity to expand our route to market into Australia in line with the growth ambitions and strategic direction of the group.”
CIE Legal advised Optimus Group, with Herbert Smith Freehills advising the vendors.
Rising to the challenge of tight timeframes
Optimus Australia CEO John Startari noted the challenges inherent in the deal from the start. “There was a compressed timeframe for an increased workload,” he says, “but CIE Legal rose to the challenge. There were meetings at all times of the day and night, but CIE Legal, under very difficult circumstances, performed extremely well. I felt we were getting the lion’s share of their attention, even though I knew they had other work on the go. The team responded within hours, made themselves available for unrealistic timeframes, and turned around contracts really rapidly. It was extremely impressive.”
Taking a pragmatic approach
The timeframes necessitated a pragmatic approach from all sides. Notes Startari:
“What I liked was that the CIE Legal team kept the deal moving and didn’t wait for me. We already had understanding, trust and cultural fit, so they were able to maintain momentum without constantly reverting back. For example, they would send information to the other side saying ‘subject to the client’s review’ – which was great – it showed a real understanding of the nature of our relationship and what it would take to get the deal done.”
“We didn’t lose any of the rigour, though. There was so much at stake here, I would rather it be thought through and validated and tested. That’s exactly what CIE Legal gave us.”
Automotive expertise critical to success
CIE Legal is known for its automotive sector expertise. This delivered a significant advantage in this transaction, observed Startari:
“Their understanding the automotive field meant we didn’t have that learning curve – they were already totally up to speed – and this reduced timeframes for us – and reduced our workload too.”
“Peter George is an elder statesman in automotive legals and he was really involved in the work. There is no better franchising lawyer for automotive in the country than Peter, so having him on our side was obviously a bonus.”
Startari felt the benefit of this experience right from the word go, “The way CIE Legal jumped in and got to the important elements first was great – they identified the most pertinent issues and we ran through them to establish the line in the sand quickly. It set the tone at the start for a productive and results-driven transaction.”
Whole team approach
The CIE Legal team was led by partner Andrew Thompson and included partner Peter George and Senior Associate Bianca Jacobs, working closely with area specialists across the firm, particularly during due diligence.
Commenting on the quality of individuals within the team, Startari noted, “Andrew, Bianca…..the whole team was fantastic – they went above and beyond.”
Collaboration and mutual respect
With such tight timeframes and commercial significance at stake, you would be forgiven for thinking that relations between advisers were techy at times. However, nothing could be further from the truth. CIE Legal’s Andrew Thompson commented, “There were pressures built into the deal, and it would have been easy for the advisers to clash, but Herbert Smith Freehills and CIE Legal naturally collaborated – there was a respect that permeated everything we did.” John Startari shares this view, “There seemed to be a genuine respect between CIE and Freehills. What I really noticed was the lack of posturing – you just wanted to get a result for your clients. It was great to see the respect that built between the firms and that reinforced the positive sense I already had about CIE Legal.”
The proof of the pudding…
Summarising his experience working with CIE Legal, John Startari noted, “From the onset to the end, it was all done very professionally. It was a true partnership.”
Mr Startari also stated, “We look forward to working with CIE on future projects as and when they arise”.
For more information on the deal, check out this article in Go Auto.