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PE-backed personal injury firm sold out of administration

Jackson: Founder left six months ago

Private-equity backed industrial disease law firm Roberts Jackson has become the latest victim of the squeeze on personal injury practices, and was sold out of administration on Friday.

The sale to Manchester firm AWH Legal was completed immediately following the appointment of Quantuma as joint administrators at the Wilmslow-based alternative business structure, some four years after it received £15m in private equity investment.

The firm’s latest accounts are several months overdue and the parent company’s last accounts, for the year to 31 July 2016, showed a turnover of £11m, group operating profit of £328,000, and overall loss of £1.3m – all improvements on the previous year. At the time, it employed 195 staff.

In a statement, Quantuma said: “The company entered administration as a result of the sector facing substantial competitive and regulatory challenges. The immediate sale of the business will see all Roberts Jackson staff transfer across to AWH Legal.”

According to Companies House, AWH Legal was a dormant company until two years ago, and was sufficiently small that it was able to file very abbreviated accounts for 2017.

To be categorised as a small company, it had to meet at least two of these three criteria: turnover of not more than £10.2m, a balance sheet total of not more than £5.1m, and not more than 50 employees on average.

AWH has eight solicitors listed by the Law Society – including managing director Abdul Hussain – and the 2017 accounts said it had 43 staff in total.

Quantuma partner Andrew Hosking added: “We have worked very closely with management, its advisors and creditors in recent weeks and are pleased that we have been able to successfully conclude a sale of the business in short timescales which preserves as many of the jobs of Roberts Jackson employees as possible.

“Protecting clients’ interests remains the priority and we have appointed Samantha Palmer and Johanna Creamer of Pinsent Masons as joint solicitor managers so as to oversee the safe transfer of client monies and client files in accordance with clients’ instructions.

“The financial difficulties experienced by Roberts Jackson are endemic in the legal sector at present, with the high cost of funding case files having a severe detrimental effect on firms.

“The immediate sale that we’ve been able to secure with AWH Legal ensures the continued protection of clients’ interests and provides the best opportunity to preserve and realise the maximum value for creditors.”

Roberts Jackson opened in 2009 and grew rapidly to become arguably the leading industrial disease law firm.

NorthEdge Capital, a private equity firm focused on the North of England, invested £15.1m in 2014 [1], funding primarily through the initial issue of debt in the form of loan notes amounting to £14.9m.

In October 2016, NatWest agreed to provide a £5m revolving credit facility.

The 2016 accounts said the directors had “a reasonable expectation that the group and company have adequate resources to service is debt commitments”.

Karen Jackson – who set up and led the firm with her husband Oliver – left the business in April 2018 [2]; at the time a firm spokesman said the plan was “to continue our strong working relationship with Karen in a consultancy capacity”.

Saying its turnover in 2017 was £10m, the firm also pledged at the time to invest up to £750,000 in new technology.