£43m Ince deal to make Gordon Dadds biggest listed law firm

Biles: Ince has an iconic brand

Gordon Dadds is set to become the largest listed law firm in the world by revenue after agreeing terms to acquire City practice Ince & Co for around £43m plus share options.

The merged entity will be a top 40 UK law firm and will trade as Ince Gordon Dadds LLP.

It will be headquartered at Ince’s office at Aldgate Tower in London and will have revenues of over £110m, with 100 partners and offices in nine countries.

This outstrips both national law firm Gateley and the Australian arm of Slater & Gordon, which remains listed, both of which are around the £86m mark.

Gordon Dadds announced turnover of £31.2m in the last annual results, although annualised revenues – given that most of its acquisition activity was towards the end of the financial year – topped £42m.

The consideration for the acquisition will equate to a percentage of the turnover generated by the equity partners of Ince & Co over the three years from completion. This is estimated to amount to £34m.

Gordon Dadds will also issue to the partners an aggregate of up to three million options to subscribe for ordinary shares in Gordon Dadds at 140p – they are currently 181p – which will vest on the third anniversary of completion and may be exercised at any time up to 31 December 2028.

The consideration payable to each partner in the first year is subject to a minimum guaranteed amount, the aggregate of which is based on the budgeted turnover for the first year.

Gordon Dadds will also settle the capital and current account balances (estimated at £9.1m) due to members from the entities acquired.

The firm will be led by Gordon Dadds’ managing partner and chief executive, Adrian Biles, supported by Peter Rogan, chairman of the board of Ince.

This is by far the biggest deal Gordon Dadds has done. When it listed last year, the board said there was an opportunity to act “as a consolidator of firms ranked between 69 and 185 in the UK top 200 market” – Ince & Co, though, sits higher than that.

The international reach of Ince & Co is part of the appeal. In June, Gordon Dadds announced it had established an office in Hong Kong and told investors that it was looking at other international opportunities.

Mr Biles said: “Ince is a highly successful and well-respected business with an iconic brand and I will be delighted to welcome our new colleagues to the Group.

“The merger will build upon the complementary strengths of the two firms in terms of industry expertise and range of services. Our management model will also allow Ince’s partners and fee-earners to focus even more on providing market leading legal advice to a stellar client base.”

Mr Rogan added: “This cutting-edge deal [is] very much in line with our long-established strategy. I’m proud that the Ince name will continue and am very excited to be moving forward together as part of this innovative new structure with access to new capital allowing us to gain greater competitive advantage in the market.

“This merger is good news as it enables us to extend our client offering and invest further in our people who provide the highest quality advice and service to clients in our chosen sectors and geographies.“

Gordon Dadds’ shares will remain suspended pending further clarification on the final terms and conditions and financing of the proposed merger.

Gordon Dadds has completed five acquisitions since listing in August 2017: south London firm Alen-Buckley, corporate tax advisory business CW Energy, corporate solicitors White & Black, and Bristol firms Metcalfes and Thomas Simon.

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