International professional services group ETL Global has acquired 30-partner London firm Laytons for its network, doubling its legal footprint in the UK with further acquisitions to come.
The investment has been structured so that Manchester-based law firm Glaisyers, which a consortium led by ETL bought in 2018, has taken a 51% stake in Laytons, whose equity partners retain the remaining 49%.
Headquartered in Germany, ETL (standing for European Tax and Law) combines tax, legal, audit and accounting services. It is the 15th largest accountancy network in the world, with more than 1,200 offices in over 50 countries.
In total over 17,000 people – including more than 13,000 professionals – support more than 320,000 clients, generating revenues of around £1.3bn.
ETL takes a majority stake in the network firms and already has 11 accountancy practices across England and Wales. Glaisyers was its first legal acquisition here and now has 68 staff; Laytons has 66.
Laytons has itself grown by acquisition in recent years, merging with Silverman Sherliker in 2017 and Lattey & Dawe in 2019. It will remain operationally independent and continue to be led by managing partner John Abbott.
Glaisyers will provide business development support to Laytons, while ETL will provide ongoing investment, with an initial focus on upgrading its technology.
Both firms will also be rebranding as ‘Glaisyers | ETL Global’ and ‘Laytons | ETL Global’ respectively.
David Jones, executive partner at Glaisyers, said expansion in London has been a priority since ETL came on board so as to take “full advantage” of its international connections.
“Our firms have complementary strengths and client bases, and Laytons has a very strong, well-established international practice which puts it in a fantastic position to thrive as part of the ETL Global network.”
He highlighted areas such as competition law and intellectual property where Laytons offered specialisms that Glaisyers did not.
Mr Jones said the experience of working with ETL to date had been “fantastic”, with around 20% of Glaisyers’ fees now coming from work referred through the network.
Turnover has increased from £4.3m at the time of the acquisition in December 2018 to £6m now which he said would have been larger but for Covid.
Though overall staff numbers have not changed dramatically, Mr Jones said the firm has more fee-earners than it did and moved away from commoditised consumer work.
There would be more acquisitions, he went on – “We’re already looking for the next one” – at the rate of about one a year.
They would need to be firms “of a decent quality and size in a very distinct commercial centre”. It would be “sensible” to complement the ETL accountancy firms – for example, they are strong in entertainment and on the south coast.
Mr Abbott said: “It’s a real win/win for all involved and I anticipate a bright future for our staff, partners and clients as we move ahead.
“Becoming part of a global network is going to open up huge opportunities for us in the years ahead. I look forward to working with Glaisyers, and our ETL partner firms in the UK and around the world, to make the most of those opportunities and achieve new levels of success.”