Barry Gross

Partner, Commercial Real Estate / ICSM Partner

“Exceptionally strong all round, and very commercial and client-driven“ Legal 500 2014
Photo of Barry Gross

Biography

  • Particular expertise in advising on complex multi-disciplinary transactions with significant real estate assets, and in the last 5 years has advised on 5 transactions involving over 100 properties.
  • Advises on transactions involving complex acquisitions and the restructuring of real estate holdings and mergers and acquisitions of real estate intensive enterprises, advising Aviva Commercial Finance and Rontec Investments on such deals.
  • Heads up the 13 strong team acting on insolvent and distressed real estate sales and acquisitions. The team have acted on numerous high profile administrations and receiverships including the Royal Bank of Scotland’s distressed loan book.
  • Finance background enables him to advise clients on complicated overage and profit sharing negotiations and he has recently advised Lloyds Banking Group on an innovative asset management arrangement in respect of its distressed loan book.
  • BLP have recently opened a Manchester office, bringing the Integrated Client Service Model, launched in March 2014, to life. Barry is one of the key partners leading this initiative, and is involved in the strategy, structuring and management of the new office.
  • Contributing author to ‘Restructuring and Workouts’ book
  • On the Consulting Editorial Board for LexisNexis

Industry Specialisms

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Q&A

  • Have we seen the end of RE insolvency for this cycle?

    I don’t think so. Whilst there is a significantly more upbeat mood in the real estate market the reality is that apart from prime areas (e.g. London) the value of real estate has not returned to the levels they achieved at the height of the boom. This, coupled with the very high levels of leverage attained at that height means that on paper a significant amount of real estate is insolvent. However, there has been a significant shift in ownership of the underlying debt from the clearing bank lenders to private equity and other ‘new entrants’. The game plan of these new players remains uncertain and since they are not subject to the same pressures as the originators of the debt we are likely to see continuing uncertainty in the real estate market for some time around potential enforcement.
  • Does current insolvency legislation damage or protect the high street?

    Insolvency legislation has to strike a very difficult balance between protecting creditors and encouraging entrepreneurs. Before the days of limited liability that balance was maintained by the very real threat that a failed entrepreneur lost everything and even risked debtors prison. I think that the current legislation does a pretty good job. The problems facing the high street are not being caused by insolvency legislation. In fact they are the challenges created by the fast paced change in technology. The high street is not in any different position; it is simply more obvious how it is affected by the tidal wave of technology based solutions that are encroaching on the traditional way of delivering goods and services. An interesting question could be whether current insolvency legislation is up to the task of managing insolvency in a globalised cloud-based business environment.
  • What is the best approach to due diligence on large portfolio transactions?

    The most important rule is that one size most definitely does not fit all. Often what drives a poor approach is fear and in particular fear of the unknown – “I need to know everything possible”. But if knowing something doesn’t (i) affect value or (ii) require a change in approach then what is the benefit of knowing? In some cases it may be sufficient to be certain that the properties are all registered in the name of the seller and then obtain insurance to cover other risks. Sometimes you might adopt a value based approach reviewing the most valuable properties/leases in more detail. In each case though you need a confident advisor who understands the real risks involved. That advisor must know (i) how to structure the due diligence to manage the risks of the acquisition (ii) advise clearly on the impact of the due diligence approach to future management of the portfolio and (iii) know which risks cannot be mitigated by due diligence or whether the cost of the due diligence to identify/quantify the risks will outweigh the benefit.
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Recent Work

Aviva Commercial Finance

All aspects of its disposal of a mixed portfolio of residential, office, retail and industrial units. We had three months to get from no information to exchange including providing vendor due diligence, title insurance and verified tenancy information on in excess of 500 tenancies all in an insolvency scenario.

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The Royal Bank of Scotland plc

On all aspects of its distressed loan book. Barry manages a multi-disciplinary team assisting in the controlled review and management of the exposure to distressed real estate in the UK. No other firm has disposed of as many distressed real estate assets at an asset level in this country.

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Doddle Limited

A joint venture between Network Rail and Lloyd Dorfman on the setting up of the framework for and all aspects of its roll-out of online shopping collection and return locations across the UK.

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Credit Suisse

On all aspects of its UK occupational portfolio. Most recently Barry led the team on the sale and leaseback of One Cabot Square, Credit Suisse’s UK headquarters involving the acquisition and tax efficient restructuring of various finance lease interests and subsequent sale to the Qatari Investment Authority.

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Rontec Investments LLP

A joint venture between Heron International, Investec Bank and Grovepoint Capital on the asset acquisition of the UK downstream and marketing business from Total including in excess of 700 petrol filling stations and an oil distribution network. With such a large portfolio tailoring the due diligence was key to ensuring the right information was obtained at the right price and the risks managed.

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Lloyds Banking Group

On the creation of the Residential Asset Management Platform with Grainger plc and the Commercial De-Leveraging Platforms. Both of these are innovative arrangements whereby a previously identified 3rd party can be appointed as asset manager by receivers or administrators on pre-agreed terms in respect of properties where Lloyds is the primary lender. The bank wanted to ensure consistency of approach and certainty of fees whilst avoiding have to take direct control over assets.

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