When Ford decided to bring the F-150 pickup truck back to Australia, they turned to RMA Automotive to adapt the vehicles for Australian requirements.
When Ford needed commercial legal advice on the deal, they turned to Raph Goldenberg and the team at CIE Legal.
CIE Legal advised on all aspects of the arrangements with RMA Automotive, which Ford describes as “the only Ford program of its kind globally”. The project created a local remanufacturing programme to adapt US vehicles to right-hand drive requirements.
We interviewed Michael Sullivan, General Counsel for Ford Australia, to hear his perspective on the vehicle conversion deal and the role that CIE Legal played.
Can I start by asking your overall perceptions of CIE Legal’s work on the deal?
“Quite simply, the deal wouldn’t have got done without them. We relied on them heavily to guide the transaction through. They were an extension of our in-house team and worked brilliantly amongst themselves to get the work done.”
“Also, they always hit the deadlines they gave. I spoke to the business to get feedback on CIE Legal, and they were just glowing about what they delivered.”
“The last thing to mention is they provided outstanding value for money. The fees were very reasonable indeed for the amount of work they put in.”
Thanks for that feedback!
Returning to the deal itself, please provide us with some background.
“It was an important deal for us to get done in Australia. Time was also a critical factor. There was a lot of time pressure. We had a fixed production date and needed to work back from that to ensure the deal was finalized to enable that date to be met. There wasn’t room for the legal input to hold things up.”
Why CIE Legal?
“Given the importance of the project, we knew we needed lawyers who would understand the context and get things done. CIE Legal has worked on transactions relating to modifiers previously and that experience really helped. It gave us access to expertise we didn’t have in house – remember this was the first time the Ford team had done a deal of this kind.”
“So, because they’d had experience with automotive modifications in the past, they were more efficient – they understood what we were talking about. We didn’t need to explain things like warranties and ACL obligations – they were already up to speed.”
What role did CIE Legal play?
“There were three elements to CIE Legal’s work: first, heavy lifting preparing the contractual documentation – turning around multiple drafts, second, taking a commercial approach to liaising with the lawyers for the other side and third, counselling our team on how to get the job done.”
What value did CIE Legal add?
“They certainly did more than just document changes to the contract. They helped get the deal over the line.”
“CIE Legal was the voice of reason for all Ford stakeholders involved. Sometimes, it is easy for sides to get entrenched in their positions. Raph and the team helped us all arrive at reasonable positions and make compromises that were sensible.”
“Kaye Ho, who led on the documentation work was extraordinarily accessible to the business team and really efficient in terms of turnaround times”
“Raph Goldenberg, who led the CIE Legal team, managed all the parties very well and, at times, took the lead for us in explaining why we would or wouldn’t agree to things. He managed all of the relationships excellently.”
“If I were to summarise, I’d say that CIE Legal knew their stuff and were really sensible, reasonable and commercial. We couldn’t have done the deal without them.”