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Nabarro advises Cicerone Fund on acquisition of Waterstones' landmark Piccadilly bookstore

3 February 2016

This article was produced by Nabarro LLP, which joined CMS on 1 May 2017.

Nabarro has advised CBRE Global Investors and Fabrica SGR, the adviser and asset manager of the Cicerone Fund respectively, on the acquisition of the long-term leasehold of the Waterstones flagship store located in 203-206 Piccadilly, London, for £92 million from Meyer Bergman. This marks the debut for the ambitious international expansion of the Cicerone Fund, an Italian property fund dedicated to Cassa Forense, the Lawyers’ National Pension Fund.

The landmark 6,161 sq building is a notable example of the 1930s modern architecture movement, in a prominent location in the exclusive St James’s district within the West End of London. The eight storey building is fully let to Waterstones, which trades from the lower ground to fifth, with the remainder being used as the Company’s headquarter offices. The retailer has committed to a long-term lease until 2034.

The property is held leasehold from The Crown Estate for a remaining term of 118 years. The transaction has been undertaken by Cicerone Holding BV, which is the fully-owned Dutch subsidiary of the Fund.

The Grade II* listed property was built in 1936 by the Simpson family, which ran its largest department store from the building until its sale to Waterstones in 1999. It was designed by modernist architect Joseph Emberton and has retail frontages on Piccadilly and Jermyn Street. The building features a 90 foot chromium light fitting suspended over the Travertine marble staircase, as well as distinctive non-reflecting concave windows at street level designed by László Moholy-Nagy, a director of the Bauhaus school.

The Nabarro multi-disciplinary team consisted of Real Estate partner Simon Staite, Corporate partner Kristy Duane and Tax partner Nick Burt who were assisted by Real Estate senior associate Paul O’Brien, Corporate associate Sioned Bates and Tax associate Lauren Lenz.

Nabarro Real Estate partner, Simon Staite, said:
“It was great to be involved in the purchase of one of the West End’s flagship stores which many of us know and use. It was also great to work as a team collaborating over several jurisdictions on the client’s first deal in London. Despite the numerous jurisdictions involved, the combined legal teams provided an impressive level of responsiveness and the multi-discipline expertise needed to deliver this complicated deal. We look forward to assisting with future projects.”

Michael Ness, Head of UK, CBRE Global Investors said:
”This was an opportunity to acquire a historically important and iconic building in the heart of London’s West End. We recognise the long-term investment value in this acquisition for our client. This is due to the excellent location and enduring occupier appeal of the building, demonstrated by Waterstones’ commitment to the site as its long term flagship store in London.”

Fabrizio Caprara, CEO of Fabrica SGR said:
“This first international operation of Cicerone Fund confirms Fabrica’s commitment to build a pan-European asset portfolio combining Cassa Forense’s diversification needs and the Fund’s risk-revenue profile. We are proud to announce such that this asset is now held by an Italian institutional investor.”

Lunson Mitchenall acted for CBRE Global Investors and along with Nabarro, Mourant Ozannes, Houthoff Buruma, Nunziate and Legance-Avvocati Associati advised the Cicerone Fund.

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Simon Staite