Bosideng – New £26m European HQ
Commenting on Gordons, Wayne Zhu, UK CEO of Bosideng said: “Bosideng is one of China’s biggest retailers. When we chose to build and open a store in London’s West End, we needed a law firm with expertise. Gordons is our legal partner. Their people understand our business and we trust their judgement.”
Bosideng International is one of China’s largest retailers, with over 7,500 outlets selling menswear and outdoor clothing. The company decided to expand internationally and become the first Chinese retailer to open a store in the UK.
The organisation acquired a triangular-shaped £20m freehold site at the junction of South Molton and Oxford Streets in London for its flagship European store. The location was home to well-known pub The Hog in the Pound, which was to be demolished and replaced by an iron-shaped steel and glass structure, for which planning permission was secured. The lower floors were to be retail space while the upper storeys would house offices and apartments.
Timescales for the site’s acquisition and re-development were extremely tight…the store had to be open by the start of the Olympics in July 2012.
Gordons was recommended to Bosideng by an existing client and realised it needed to forge an immediate close working relationship with the company. It did this by demonstrating it understood the project timetable’s significance and need to work with Bosideng in directing a large professional team. Gordons also highlighted its full-service commercial property department, encompassing planning and construction specialists, plus experience in delivering major retail projects for national clients, such as supermarket chain Morrisons.
Gordons was instructed to act on the site’s acquisition and re-development, knowing the location’s incredibly tight nature would present additional challenges.
Heads of terms were agreed in January 2011, aimed at the site being acquired swiftly. However, it became apparent that, for confidential reasons, the seller would not be able to complete until July.
On top of issues with the legal title, including obtaining vacant possession, Gordons’ main challenges therefore became identifying and resolving matters that could extend the now extremely compressed re-development and construction timetable.
A key issue was the party wall separating the pub from retail premises. Gordons ensured Bosideng obtained control of the limited party wall proceedings the seller had instigated, by having them appointed seller’s agent, to instruct the existing party wall surveyor. On the site’s acquisition, the benefit of these proceedings and surveyor’s appointment were assigned to Bosideng. Gordons also ensured party wall notices for the re-development phase were served as early as possible.
Gordons also ensured a rights to light surveyor was engaged early and worked closely with it to identify adjoining owners most likely to obtain injunctions citing interference. Documentation was also prepared in case quick settlements were required with any neighbours.
Gordons also co-ordinated the client’s professional team to ensure all relevant planning and conservation area consent conditions were discharged before works began.
Gordons remained heavily involved throughout the construction phase. It prepared and negotiated the main contracts covering demolition works, building and store fit-out, plus the professional team’s appointments (including the architect and structural engineer). This included documenting an escrow account arrangement with the building contractor, which saw funds released as targets were achieved. Importantly, the documents provided for close on-site co-ordination between construction team members.
The firm also guided Bosideng on project management issues, particularly avoiding disputes with construction team members. This advice was provided frequently to the client’s board in Shanghai. Gordons also regularly advised Bosideng in conference calls and meetings, when its directors visited the UK.
Gordons led the construction team in ensuring compliance with statutory obligations and planning consents. In particular, it negotiated terms allowing Bosideng’s works to proceed while Crossrail’s progressed directly beneath the site. Gordons also liaised with Westminster City Council throughout the project.
Bosideng’s store opened on 26 July 2012…36 hours before the Olympics began!
Commenting on the transaction, Kelvin Mak, Chief Financial Officer, Bosideng International said: “Our entry into the UK and Europe is of great strategic importance to our brand, so it was vital for us to partner with the right law firm. We appointed Gordons because of their outstanding retail sector experience. They were exceptional throughout the initial negotiations and then ably demonstrated their capability throughout the entire project. It has been complex and challenging, but they have been exceptional in all aspects. With their support, we have now secured a superb location in one of the world’s most famous retail destinations.”
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