Puerto Rico picks Allen & Overy, Mayer Brown as legal advisors

The law firms will advise the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority on it toll road and airport PPPs, respectively. Experience in landmark US transactions and a local presence in Puerto Rico was a resounding theme in Puerto Rico’s overall advisor selection process.

The Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority has finalised the team of consultants for its planned toll roads and airport projects, reaching for well-known firms with experience on landmark US transactions and Puerto Rican advisory engagements.

For the toll roads project, which includes leasing and developing the US territory’s toll roads in several phases, the authority picked law firm Allen & Overy as legal advisor.

“They were engaged earlier in 2002 for a different project in Puerto Rico, so they know the local flavour to things,” David Alvarez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority, said in an interview.

Allen & Overy partner David Slade and senior counsel David Horner will lead the advisory effort.

For its technical advisor, who will put together traffic forecasts and studies on the toll roads, the authority chose San Francisco-based engineering firm URS Corporation. Chicago-based George Tapas and Puerto Rico-based Rene Purcell will lead the engagement, Alvarez said.

Alvarez praised URS’s “extensive experience in Puerto Rico” and reputation in public-private partnership engagements. URS acted as engineering and technical advisor to the City of Chicago on its $1. 83 billion lease of the Chicago Skyway toll bridge in 2004.

Together, Allen & Overy will work with the previously-selected financial advisor for the toll road deal, Macquarie Capital, which has already put out a request for qualifications (RFQ) to the first phase of the toll roads project. Responses are due 29 July.

The airport project involves leasing Puerto Rico’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan to the highest bidder. Puerto Rican law allows a maximum lease length of 75 years, but the precise lease length for Luis Munoz Marin has yet to be determined.

As legal advisor for the project, Puerto Rico chose Mayer Brown, the law firm that represented the City of Chicago in its ultimately unsuccessful effort to execute a similar transaction for its Midway Airport.

“That played in their favour, especially because they were in the sell-side and because they were consultants with the City of Chicago from the very beginning of that project,” Alvarez said, adding that the firm has also previously represented clients in Puerto Rico.

Mayer Brown’s Joe Seliga will lead the legal advisory team, Alvarez said.

Mayer Brown's immediate challenge will be to help Puerto Rico get approval for the lease from the airlines landing at Luis Munoz Marin. These include American Airlines, Continental, Jet Blue and Delta, among others. Under Federal aviation law, unless airlines representing 65 percent of the traffic at the airport agree to the lease, the deal can’t go forward.

“We are dedicating ourselves, the last part of this month and all of August, to finalise that process,” Alvarez said. “Once we complete that, we will issue an RFQ right away,” he added, pointing out that the RFQ for the project and a feasibility study have already been drafted.

As technical advisor for the project, the authority chose aviation consultancy LeighFisher, formerly known as the aviation practice of engineering firm Jacobs.

Mayer Brown and LeighFisher will join previously-selected financial advisor Credit Suisse on the airport project advisory engagement.