Meerkats entered the law today as BGL Group – one of the UK’s leading insurance intermediaries and owner of the comparethemarket.com website – received its alternative business structure (ABS) licence to acquire Yorkshire personal injury law firm Minster Law.
It claims to be the largest outright sale of a law firm to date. Minster Law has 800 employees in York and Wakefield, and an annual fee income of £107m, handling more than 40,000 cases a year. It also offers employment, probate, wills and conveyancing services.
The links between BGL, which also owns the Budget Insurance brand, and Minster are well known. Headquartered in Peterborough, the group employs more than 2,400 people and has 4.6m customers. In 2012 the group had record profits of £88m, a 22% increase on the year before.
Peter Winslow, chief executive of the BGL Group, said: “The acquisition of a successful law firm is an important and positive move for BGL and one that is key to our ongoing success. We have been working very closely with Minster Law for some time and there are already clear synergies between the two companies.”
Adrian Christmas, chairman of Minster Law, added: “BGL Group and Minster Law have worked closely together for a number of years. The acquisition of Minster Law will enable our partnership to develop further and allow us to strengthen the market leading service we provide to our customers.
“The agreement will allow Minster Law to retain its independence, whilst also allowing our people access to all of the strategic and corporate advantages available within BGL, including the group’s financial strength and vast consumer experience.”
All Minster Law employees will be retained in the acquisition and Mr Christmas will become non-executive chairman.
Minster’s ABS application was submitted in January 2012, the month the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) began accepting them.
Mr Christmas said: “As one of the most complex ABS applications that the SRA has had to manage, it has been, appropriately, the subject of a thorough review. Having worked closely with the SRA, we have been impressed by the rigorous and professional approach it has taken in handling this important process.”
SRA executive director Samantha Barrass said: “Minster Law showed early interest in applying to become an ABS and it has been necessary for the process to involve a very detailed consideration of Minster Law;s application as it has a complex ownership structure.
“The working relationship between the firm and the SRA throughout this exercise has been wholly constructive. This level of engagement has helped us hone our processes so that we are better able to advise applicants with similarly complex structures.”