Solicitor boss of listed law firm cashes in £61m worth of shares

Beech: Two-year lock-in for remaining shares

The boss of listed law firm Knights, David Beech, has cashed in £61m worth of shares, the company announced today.

Mr Beech, the regional firm’s largest shareholder, will still be left with more than 20% of the firm’s shares after the sell-off.

Last May, the solicitor entered the Sunday Times Rich List with a paper fortune of £130m, the only person among the top 1,000 to have made their money solely in law.

Mr Beech and group chairman Bal Johal have sold 15.7m and 300,000 ordinary shares respectively.

The shares were sold at 390p – although they closed yesterday at 409.5p – netting Mr Beech £61.2m and Mr Johal £1.2m.

When Knights listed in June 2018, Mr Beech entered into a three-year lock-in agreement in respect of his shareholding with the company and Numis Securities. Numis has agreed to waive the lock-in “given the strong institutional demand for the shares”.

Mr Beech’s current 32.5m shareholding represents 39.5% of Knights’ issued share capital and his remaining 16.8m shares will mean he is still the company’s largest shareholder. Jupiter Asset Management is next, with 7.3m shares, or an 8.8% stake.

The placing shares represent 19.4% of the company’s issued share capital and have been offered by way of an accelerated bookbuild.

Investors were told that Mr Beech was also selling the shares “enhance the liquidity in the company’s shares, as well as for his own estate planning purposes”.

The announcement went on: “David Beech remains fully committed to his role in driving the business forward and intends to remain a significant shareholder for the long-term following the completion of the placing.”

His remaining shares are subject to a new lock-in which ends two years after completion of the placing.

Mr Beech said: “I remain fully committed to delivering our ambition to build the leading legal and professional services business outside London and believe that, with a more diversified shareholder base, our business is in an even better position to achieve this.”

A Legal Futures analysis at the start of the month showed that Knights was the only listed law firm to defy the Covid gloom and end 2020 with its share price higher (at 393.5p) than where it began.

Announcing interim results last week, Mr Beech outlined his ambitions to continue expanding the business across England, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland also in his sights. It has acquired 11 firms since going public.

In November, Alan Sellers and Samantha Moss, the two lawyers behind Anexo Group plc – the listed business that owns leading personal injury law firm Bond Turner – announced they were selling some of their shares to private equity investor DBAY Funds, valuing their holdings at the time at around £46m.

DBAY is acquiring a 29% stake. According to an announcement this week, DBAY has acquired 9.9% and has applied for regulatory approval from the Financial Conduct Authority and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority so it can acquire the other 19.1%.

In December, the chief executive of listed law firm Keystone sold £630,000 worth of shares in response to “market demand”.

James Knight sold 127,725 shares at a price of 492p – he retains 10.5m shares in the company, representing 33.75% of its issued share capital.

Finally, in a trading update yesterday, RBG Holdings plc – the AIM-listed company that owns City law firm Rosenblatt – said 2020 represented its most successful year in terms of revenue, EBITDA and gross margin, which exceeded 40%.

It said the performance “demonstrates the group’s resilience despite the challenges presented by the pandemic”. As a result, the board will pay a dividend of 3p per share in respect of the 2020 financial year.

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