Listed business spends £54m on compliance firm and unveils employment “powerhouse”

Goodhardt: Eyeing next-generation platform

Listed company Marlowe has continued its rapid expansion into the legal market by spending £54m on a risk management and compliance company that says 20% of all solicitors use its products.

It has also brought together its various employment law, HR and health & safety acquisitions under a single brand, WorkNest.

Marlowe describes itself as the UK leader in business-critical services and software which assure safety and regulatory compliance, whilst managing risk for businesses.

It is spending up to £54m to buy VinciWorks – £39m upfront and £15m more if VinciWorks increases its current EBITDA of £3.2m to £5.1m in the 2023 financial year.

Founded in 2003, VinciWorks has 31 employees serving around 530 clients, and has an annual revenue of £5.5m.

The company provides compliance e-learning software as a service and compliance management software across a broad range of sectors. It has a strong presence in the law, numbering 60 of the top 100 law firms among its clients.

It said that, with £280m in revenue and over 40,000 clients, “Marlowe has the scale and knowledge to help VinciWorks scale its business”.

Marlowe has rapidly developed its digital compliance offering and claims to provide services to over 15% of Britain’s commercial premises.

Its chief executive, Alex Dacre, said: “The acquisition of VinciWorks is a major development in Marlowe’s strategy to become the market leader in governance, risk and compliance software and cements our position as the UK’s leading GRC compliance e-learning business.

“The acquisition is highly complementary to our existing portfolio of compliance software products and will enable us to offer clients a complete regulatory solution which enhances their visibility and understanding of evolving standards and regulations, enabling them to better manage their corporate & ESG, employee and workplace risks.”

Vinciworks chief executive Josh Goodhardt added: “Marlowe’s expertise and resources will help us accelerate our vision for a one-stop governance, risk and compliance platform…

“VinciWorks has the regulatory knowledge and technical expertise to, together with Marlowe, build a next-generation platform for identifying and navigating risk and compliance around the globe.”

Marlowe, which was only created in 2015, is an acquisition machine that has been expanded rapidly into employment advice and has created what it called a “powerhouse of employment law, HR and health & safety support services”.

In December 2019, it spent £6.3m – rising to a possible £10.3m over three years – to acquire Law At Work, a Glasgow-based national employment law business that originally spun out of what was then Scottish law firm Maclay Murray & Spens.

A year ago, it acquired Ellis Whittam, a large unregulated employment law, HR and health & safety business set up by a solicitor, for £61m.

In March, Marlowe spent £3.2m to buy specialist alternative business structure ESPHR and in July bought Oxfordshire-based employment law firm Cater Leydon Millard for £2.25m.

The WorkNest brand, with a turnover of £35m, brings together these and other associated businesses that Marlowe owns.

Headquartered in Chester – with hub offices in Aberdeen, Alloa, Bath, Edinburgh, Gateshead, Glasgow, London, Loughborough and Woking – the 400-plus staff, including more than 50 solicitors, work with 40,000 employers across 45 sectors.

WorkNest chief executive Gavin Snell said bringing these businesses together under a single brand “creates the leading single source of highly-qualified in-person advice and comprehensive digital services, empowering employers to manage all their employment, safety and wellbeing challenges”.

Mark Ellis, who sold Ellis Whittam, is speaking at the Legal Futures Innovation Conference on 16 November

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