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China's Geely gets key help on Volvo from Rothschild

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China's Geely gets key help on Volvo from Rothschild

March 30, 2010 06:01 CET

LONDON (Reuters) -- One of China's most senior female bankers, two top Swedish industrialists and a childhood friend of London's mayor led the Rothschild team that helped Geely seal China's biggest-ever overseas autos takeover.

Signing the deal helps cement Rothschild's standing as the busiest financial adviser to the automotive industry.

On Sunday, Li Shufu's Zhejiang Geely agreed to buy Volvo Cars from Ford for $1.8 billion. That capped months of painstaking negotiations over the future of the Swedish sedan maker, which Ford has owned for a decade.

Even before the Volvo transaction, Rothschild had worked on $89.25 billion worth of auto deals over the last 12 months, according to Thomson Reuters data, more than any other bank. Recent clients include Volkswagen, BMW and the British and U.S. governments.

People familiar with the matter said Jennifer Yu, Rothschild's top investment banker in greater China, and London-based Meyrick Cox, one of the three co-heads of the bank's automotive team, helped lead the deal.

Yu is married to the adopted son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, according to a 2008 article by French business magazine Challenges.

She helped smooth relations with the Chinese government, whose support was vital for Geely, the people said.

"She's one of those people who tends to get whisked through security at airports -- it's very impressive," one said.

Car obsessed

The car-obsessed Cox, a former Goldman Sachs partner who switched banks in 2002, was key in negotiating complex intellectual property issues, one person said.

As a child, Cox won a scholarship to the elite Eton College alongside his friend Boris Johnson, now London's mayor.

Also instrumental were Rothschild adviser Hans-Olov Olsson and Pehr Gyllenhammar, vice-chairman of Rothschild Europe, who have ties stretching back decades to Volvo Cars and its former parent Volvo AB.

Olsson served as CEO and then chairman of Volvo Cars, and later as Ford's chief marketing officer. He helped communicate with Volvo Cars employees, unions and suppliers, one of the people said.

Gyllenhammar, who ended a 23-year career at Volvo AB as executive chairman in 1993, is also chairman of the Thomson Reuters trustee directors, the parent company of the Reuters wire service.

Other key players

Freshfields corporate lawyer Chris Bown and intellectual property specialist Avril Martindale also advised Geely.

Ford turned to Hogan & Hartson LLP partner Bill Curtin, who advised the Detroit giant on the 2008 sale of two of its other premier car marquees, Jaguar and Land Rover, to India's Tata Motors Ltd.

Citigroup bankers including Leon Kalvaria, vice chairman of Citi's institutional clients group, and Eric Levengood, managing director in the bank's global industrials group, also advised Ford, as did a team from JPMorgan, the people said.

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