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  1. Insolvency and corporate recovery
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DLA Piper UK LLP’s practice focuses on non-contentious restructuring and insolvency work and the team was active on a number of significant mandates, including advising PricewaterhouseCoopers on the administration of the Caparo group of companies. In another important piece of work, the team assisted with the wind-down of the activities of the McCambridge Group. Huw Dolphin’s team includes real estate insolvency specialist John Jeffreys, whose ‘depth of knowledge is outstanding’.

Eversheds LLPcreative and responsive’ team continued to be involved in most of the high-profile restructurings and insolvencies in the region. Examples include advising KPMG on the pre-packaged sale of Mira, and acting for Deloitte in relation to the restructure and sale of UKDN Waterflow. Practice head Andrew Jordan is ‘not afraid to give harder messages to achieve the right result’, and principal associate Laura Taylor, who joined from DLA Piper UK LLP, is a ‘go-to professional’.

Hailed by one source as ‘simply the best in the business for contentious insolvency’, the practice at Gateley Plc is led by Mark Wilson, who ‘brings a fantastic commercial acumen to litigation’. On the non-contentious side, Daniel French acted for the administrators in the administration of a group of hotels and advised City Link and City Link Properties on rescue strategies prior to the appointment of an administrator.

Gowling WLG’s team continued to play a key role in restructuring matters emanating from Ireland’s financial crisis. Jasvir Jootla acted for Grant Thornton on the pre-packaged administration and sale of Mastertronic Group. London-based Julian Pallett heads the department.

Pinsent Masons LLP’s lender-focused practice was boosted by the arrival of new practice head Amy Flavell, who joined from Squire Patton Boggs; Flavell focuses on distressed lending and restructuring. Also of note is Edward Sunderland, who advised Barclays and RBS Invoice Finance on the restructuring of asset-based lending facilities provided to Caparo Industries.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP’s three-partner practice covers contentious and non-contentious work for clients such as Lloyds Banking Group, Rcapital and KPMG. Andrew Taylor leads the team and acted for KPMG in relation to the administration of Cermatco. Other key players are Sam Payne*, who is ‘very good to have on your side’, and Stuart Taylor, who has ‘a good blend of technical knowledge and commercial advice’. *Sam Payne joined Harrison Clark Rickerbys in June 2016.

At Shoosmiths LLP, national practice head James Keates provides a ‘very personal approach’ and acts for banks, asset-based lenders, insolvency practitioners, and private equity holders and directors on a range of insolvency matters. Keates advised Wachem Statestrong in connection with the acquisition of the business and assets of Statestrong Products from its administrators. Senior associate Aaron Harlow is ‘a very capable and responsive lawyer’.

Squire Patton Boggs’ practice underwent some restructuring with the arrival of Russell Hill from Eversheds LLP and the departure of Amy Flavell for Pinsent Masons LLP. The team has ‘very good bank relationships’ and particular sector expertise in retail, automotive and manufacturing. In one recent highlight, Hill advised Ernst & Young on the administration of BSA Machine Tools. Head of practice Devinder Singh is ‘always available with sensible, no-nonsense advice’.

At Beswicks Legal, Richard Preston focuses on insolvency work for clients such as Begbies Traynor, RSM and Moore Stephens. Preston reported an increase in work defending directors in disqualification proceedings.

Clarke Willmott LLP’s practice wins praise for its ‘very good, all-round insolvency knowledge’. As well as continuing to act for key client the Insolvency Service, the team advised the administrator on the sale of a well-known estate agency. Practice head Stephanie Slinn and the ‘very thorough and tenacious’ Sheena Tandy are the key contacts.

DWF’s practice is led by Sean McGrath, who divides his time between the firm’s Birmingham and Manchester offices. Senior associate Richard Holmes specialises in transactional and property-based assignments and acted for the administrators of Minshall Construction on the sale of the company’s business and assets.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ team saw an increase in restructuring assignments and also secured new clients such as Quantuma and SKG Capital. Cheltenham-based practice head Jonathan Whitbread and senior associate Hayley Hooper, who is based in Worcester, represented private equity clients on a number of insolvent acquisitions. Sadly, Dan Cambridge passed away in January 2016. Sam Payne joined from Shakespeare Martineau LLP in June 2016.

At Higgs & Sons, ‘business acumen and response times are always extremely good’. David Ellis’ team includes contentious specialist Carl Garvie, who arrived from St Philips Chambers, and associate Oliver Ward Jones, who has particular expertise in the charities and not-for-profit sector. The team saw an increase in deceased insolvency.

At Irwin Mitchell, non-contentious specialist Stephen George works closely with the asset-based lending team and, in one highlight, advised Lloyds Bank Commercial Finance, Lloyds and Deloitte in relation to the administration of the Laidlaw group of companies.

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s practice continued to be instructed by lenders and insolvency practitioners on various multimillion-pound administrations, including pre-packaged arrangements. Kamal Majevadia and Leanne Schneider-Rose are the names to note.

At The Wilkes Partnership, head of practice David Cleary is ‘commercially savvy and well connected’ and John Cooper is ‘highly competent’. The team has experience in advising a range of insolvency practitioners, financiers and other stakeholders.

Senior associate Emma Easton leads the team at Wright Hassall LLP, which handles, among other things, personal insolvency and directors’ duties, wrongful trading and misfeasance. The team has also been advising insolvency practitioners on recovery outside the jurisdiction.

FBC Manby Bowdler LLP is singled out as being ‘number one in Shropshire for insolvency advice’. Wolverhampton-based Gareth Ruddock and Shropshire-based Brian Aikman specialise in insolvency disputes and defended a client against a search and seizure order made by an administrator.

At Freeths, commercial litigator Mike Gilmour focuses on handling insolvency disputes for clients such as Baker Tilly and BDO. Gilmour has particular expertise in bankruptcy.

Key mandates for Thursfields Solicitors’ team included advising Mazars on the procedural aspect of a voluntary scheme of arrangement for RB Evans Electrical, and successfully acting for Manolete on the recovery of assets from a former director of a company in liquidation. Associate Lauren Hartigan-Pritchard heads the team and gives ‘good, solid commercial advice’.

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Legal Developments in West Midlands for Insolvency and corporate recovery

  • New revised guidelines for administrators in pre-pack sales

    Pre-pack sales by administrators are now used frequently enough for most people in business to be aware of them and many have come across them in their business lives. A small amount of controversy still attaches to pre-packs, but it is probably right to say that they are now an accepted part of the UK business scene as a useful means of rescuing a business in difficulty and preserving some or all of the jobs connected with the business.
    - Druces

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