Hundreds of Gateley staff sign up to share options

Stock exchange: Options will vest in three years’ time

Around a third of Gateley’s 1,000 staff have taken up options under the listed law firm’s latest save as you earn (SAYE) share scheme.

Gateley runs three share option schemes, of which the SAYE is the one available to all employees.

Options under this scheme vest if the participant remains employed for the agreed vesting period of three years.

Upon vesting, each option allows the holder to purchase the allocated ordinary shares at 102p, a discount of 20% of the market price as at 14 October, the dealing day before the invitation to participate was made. The shares closed at 137p on Friday.

The options have a contract start date of 6 November 2020 and are exercisable between 7 November 2023 and 6 May 2024.

A total of 332 employees elected to participate and nearly 2.3m options have been issued, equating to 1.9% of Gateley’s current issued share capital.

Among them were four senior managers: group HR director Victoria Walker, who is also a member of the PLC board (17,647 options); Tom Rush, a corporate partner who is also a member of the operations board (8,824 options); group IT director Vikki Whittemore (17,647 options); and group marketing director Nick Capell (3,529 options).

Gateley also has a company share option plan for non-partner lawyers and support staff with senior management positions, and a long-term incentive plan for executive directors and senior management.

In February, partners and staff at Gateley sold £11m worth of shares, making £27m in three sell-offs since the firm went public in June 2015.

Another of the listed law firm, Ince Group, has a new major shareholder after declaring that Stonehage Fleming Investment Management, an international family office, now has a 5.3% stake in the business.

Chief executive Adrian Biles has the biggest single slice of the firm’s shares (16%), followed by investment manager Ruffer (11.2%) and River and Mercantile Asset Management (6.5%). Cavendish Asset Management is the other significant shareholder, with a 5% stake.

Ince’s share price has been struggling for some months. It closed at 24.5p on Friday, almost 100p lower than a year ago and having dived after an unexpected placing in January.

Finally, leading conveyancing firm Countrywide Property Lawyers could find itself under new ownership after leading estate agency and property services business Connells said last week that it had made an indicative approach worth £82m for parent business Countrywide.

Private equity firm Alchemy Parnters had been moving ahead with £90m plans to invest in Countrywide, in return for a management shake-up, but that is now up in the air.

Countrywide’s board has been on the look-out for recapitalisation to reduce its net debt and lessen its exposure to its lenders, failing which it could end up in administration.”

In a statement to the stock exchange, Connells – a subsidiary of Skipton Building Society – said: “Connells believes that Countrywide needs a new management team, with real estate agency expertise, and a new strategy to turnaround the business.

“The enormous scale of the challenge that the new team will face can be seen by the fact that they will need to reverse the performance of a business that has lost over £500m pre-tax over the last three calendar years.

“Connells also believes that significant and sustained investment is required in Countrywide’s technology, network and people to put the business back on a solid footing in a challenging market.”

The company – which has 600 branches around the country – said the Alchemy transaction would mean Countrywide shareholders “suffering material dilution at a discounted price and being exposed to significant ongoing risk” with an unproven new management team.

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