Who is Robert O'Donoghue? Details of the new Newcastle United takeover QC set to battle the Premier League

The near year-long Newcastle United takeover saga took an unexpected twist for many this week with the news that the battle lines had been redrawn – and fans were at the forefront of the offensive.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 9:26 pm
Newcastle General View during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool FC at St. James Park on July 26, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

While Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd – and fans Gordon Stein and Keith Patterson – have been thrust into the limelight since their Letter Before Action was dumped on the Premier League yesterday morning, there’s a man behind the scenes – the legal muscle – who could well see his day in court with the league, should they fail to sufficiently respond to the anti-competition notice.

Here’s a profile of Brick Court Chambers’ Robert O'Donoghue QC.

Who is Robert O’Donoghue?

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According to the Brick Court Chambers’ website, O’Donoghue has “extensive experience” in the fields of “competition law, EU law, utility regulation, and related aspects of commercial and public law”.

His year of call was 1996 – when he became a barrister – while his year of silk – when he was appointed to the Queen’s Council (QC) as "her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law" – was 2017.

According to the Who’s Who Legal 2020, O’Donoghue is described as “one of the Bar’s foremost names in competition practice, with peers describing him as ‘a very experienced and reliable silk who is active in many of the biggest cases’.”

He’s described by those who know him as one of the best in the business – a Northern Irish straight-talker who goes for the jugular.

O’Donoghue has previously worked with Patterson on another case.

What clients has he worked with?

O’Donoghue’s clients include the likes of British Airways, Google, Glencore, Telefónica, ASDA, Samsung, and Pfizer.

Brick Court’s website explains: “He has appeared in major cases in the High Court, Competition Appeal Tribunal, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, EU Courts, Irish courts, international arbitral bodies, and in oral hearings before competition authorities and sectoral regulators in these matters. He is also involved in giving expert evidence on EU and competition law in foreign courts in class actions in Canada and Israel, as well as litigation in Sweden.”

It continues: “Robert has consistently appeared as a leading barrister in legal directories such as Chambers and Partners and Legal 500.”

Awards & accolades

Listed in Who's Who Legal 2017: Competition Future Leaders.

Listed as the “Leading Junior” in Competition Law by Who’s Who UK Bar 2016

Short-listed as “Competition Law Junior Of The Year” in 2015 by Chambers and Partners

Listed in the “40 Under 40” of global competition lawyers by Global Competition Review– one of only three practising UK barristers listed (2012)

Profiled as one of five junior barristers in the Global Competition Review UK Barrister Survey (2013)

The youngest nominee and only practising barrister to feature in the Who's Who of Competition Lawyers & Economists (2011)

Outstanding EU Competition Lawyer Fellowship Award, Global Competition Law Centre, College of Europe (2003)

Key competition cases O’Donoghue has worked on

Balmoral Limited v Competition and Markets Authority (acting for Balmoral in appeal against Galvanised Steel Tanks information-sharing decision)

Alpharma v Competition and Markets Authority (acting for Alpharma in the CAT in an appeal against the first-ever “pay for delay” decision in the UK)

Case CE/9742-13 Phenytoin Sodium (acting for Pfizer in relation to an excessive pricing allegation)

Micula and others v Romania [2017] EWHC 31 (Comm), [2017] WLR(D) 35 (acting for Romania in respect of enforcement of ICSID Award found contrary to EU competition law)

Case T-48-11 British Airways v Commission (acted for BA in securing refund of €104 million fine in cartel case)

Case T-851/14 Slovak Telekom v Commission (acting for Slovak Telekom in appeal to the General Court against €35 million fine for breach of Article 102)

Terravision Limited v Stansted Airport Limited (acting for winning bidders in competition law complaint over procurement)

Swedish Competition Authority v Nasdaq OMX, acting for Nasdaq OMX in defence to litigation brought by Swedish Competition Authority)

GTS Gas Turbines SA v Rolls-Royce (acting for GTS in abuse of dominance action against Rolls-Royce in relation to “aftermarkets”)

Unwired Planet Inc v Google & others (IP action involving FRAND licence terms)

Foundem v Google (acting for Google in follow-on damages action brought by Foundem alleging abuse of dominance)

Acting for Glencore in a confidential arbitration (LCIA) concerning a $43 billion industrial supply contract

BT & T-Mobile v OFCOM [2011] CAT 24, on appeal Telefónica O2 UK Limited and others v British Telecommunications plc [2012] EWCA Civ 1002 (Court of Appeal) and on a further appeal to the Supreme Court in [2014] UKSC 42

Toshiba Carrier UK Ltd and Ors v KME Yorkshire Limited and Ors (follow-on damages action)

T-344/12 Virgin Airways Limited v EU Commission, acting for British Airways as intervener in appeal by Virgin against Commission approval of British Airways/BMI transaction

Case T-260/13 Ryanair v EU Commission, acting for British Airways as intervener in appeal by Ryanair against Commission prohibition of the Ryanair/Aer Lingus transaction.

Asda and others v Office of Fair Trading [2011] CAT 41 (acted for Asda in successful appeal against OFT decision in Tobacco)

EWRG and CEF v Recolight and others (acted for claimants in major claim involving environmental law and competition law)

Raleigh v Mail Order Cycles Limited, judgment of Norris J of 28 April 2010 (acted for Raleigh in successfully resisting a resale price maintenance claim)

Plus Markets plc v London Stock Exchange plc (High Court) (breach of competition law and equities trading rules)

Idealing v London Stock Exchange (breach of contract and abuse of dominance in information services)

Sel-Imperial Limited v British Standards Institution (standards and breach of competition law)

Tesco v Competition Commission [2009] CAT 6 (acted for Marks & Spencer in appeal against Competition Commission market investigation)

T-Mobile v Ofcom (appeal against donor conveyance charge decision by Ofcom)

European Climate Exchange Limited v LCH.Clearnet Limited (High Court) (abuse of dominance in clearing facilities)

Case C-95/04 P British Airways Plc v. Commission & Virgin (rebate practices)

Case T-15/02 BASF AG v Commission (secured a €60 million fine reduction for BASF in cartel case)

Case T-184/01 R, IMS Health Inc. v. Commission, [2001] ECR II-3193 (compulsory licensing of IP rights under EU law)

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