Private equity pair take majority stake in leading PI firm

Winn: aiming to expand significantly

Winn Solicitors – which has grown in a decade from nothing to a highly profitable £40m volume claimant personal injury firm – is set for further expansion after being bought by two international investment companies.

JZ International (JZI) and Souter Investments have acquired a 60% shareholding in the Winn Group, made up of Winn Solicitors Ltd, On Hire Ltd and On Medical Ltd.

Winn’s core management team, led by Jeff Winn, his sister Dawn Winn and Ghazala Bashey, will retain a 40% stake in the company and are staying with the business. The terms of the deal are confidential.

Winn Solicitors was last week granted an alternative business structure licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Members of both JZI and Souter Investments – the private investment vehicle of Sir Brian Souter, the co-founder and chairman of Stagecoach Group plc – will sit on the parent company board alongside Winn’s directors.

The Winn Group, which employs nearly 300 people, provides a complete accident management process, including legal services, replacement car hire, credit repair and medical treatment.

Mr Winn said: “This investment is recognition of the excellent business we have built up and confidence that Winn Group will further develop its offering. We aim to expand the business significantly in the next few years and this investment gives us the backing to do that.”

JZL specialises in investing in and developing small to medium-sized businesses in partnership with founders and entrepreneurs. It has invested in over 30 companies across Europe, with a particular focus on financial services, and its current investments have an annual combined turnover of more than €2bn. JZI is the European arm of JZ Advisers Inc, the investment adviser to JZ Capital Partners, a $700m closed fund quoted on the London Stock Exchange.

JZI senior partner Martin Wright said: “The combination of the excellent management of the Winn Group and the operational and financial assistance of the JZI management group will enable Winn to further consolidate its position as one of the leading providers in the outsourced accident management sector in a short period of time.”

Souter Investments’ primary focus in recent years has been unquoted investments, including Virgin Mobile Latin America and Alexander Dennis, the UK’s biggest bus and coach manufacturer.

Winn Solicitors was founded by Mr Winn, a former criminal law specialist, and Ms Bashey in 2002 after a motorist crashed into the back of Mr Winn’s car. Frustrated by the losses he incurred through his insurance claim, they decided to set up a practice specialising in claiming directly from those at fault.

Speaking at June’s Legal Futures Conference, Mr Winn said: “The whole idea of an automated service is to take to the correct level the administration work in the areas that don’t need a very clever lawyer and to take away from that clever lawyer all the bits that he really doesn’t need to do.

“In any case, four-fifths of it is going to be administration. One-fifth of it is the brain power that makes a difference to the client, and the way we’ve approached it is to make sure that we’ve got the best legal brains for personal injury but that they have just the work that requires those brains. It’s as simple as that. Everything else, automate as much as you can.”


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