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  1. Corporate and commercial: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
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DLA Piper UK LLP’s clients ‘would have no hesitation in using or recommending the team’, which is led by corporate partner Richard May and commercial partner Roger Gough. Corporate specialist Rob McKie focuses on M&A for UK and international private and listed companies, IPOs and secondary public equity offerings, public takeovers, private equity transactions, shareholder arrangements and joint ventures; and plc expert Catherine Simister handles the full range of corporate transactional work, including M&A, cross-border reorganisations and alignment and integration projects; and senior associate David Beech focuses on cross-border transactions. Recent highlights include working with the firm’s Edinburgh office on the £25m acquisition of a Dundee-based golf and leisure resort by new client Coppergreen Developments, which was backed by private equity and debt funding, and the transfer of a separate UK leisure park to Coppergreen Developments. Other work included assisting with the reverse takeover of Azzurri Communications by AIM-listed Maintel, together with the provision of a new £36m revolving credit facility and placing to raise £24m, and advising the board of directors and majority shareholder of new client Yu Group on the terms of a £10m placing and IPO process. Playtech is another new client.

CMS appears in the ranking for the first time following the firm’s merger with Nabarro. The practice is led by Ben Hendry, who has niche strengths in the technology sector and regularly acts for advanced manufacturing and tech businesses in the region. The team is known for its expertise handling acquisitions, disposals, investments, IPOs, capital raisings, restructurings and joint ventures. Gareth Saynor led advice to the management team of HR Essentials on the MBO of the Essentials Recruitment group, and Hendry assisted the management team of Gearing UP with the £5m MBI of Precision Engineering group, and also advised GRI on its £3.4m acquisition of Expac. Senior associate Nick Hopper is also noted.

Freeths LLP’s team ‘invests time’ in clients and has ‘a good depth of knowledge’. The ‘outstanding’ Peter Crawford heads the practice; his recent highlights include advising on the sale of the Gordon Lamb Group to Vertu, assisting SCX with a capital reduction demerger, advising Code James on the sale of James Smith to Hillview Garden Centres, and handling an investment round for Sheffield-based BrainTrain, an early-stage healthcare technology company. Other clients include InfoTrack Group, STL Group and The Floow. Lisa Wallis’ knowledge of commercial matters is ‘excellent’.

Partner accessibility has always been a strong point’ at HLW Keeble Hawson. Roger Dyson leads the practice, which also includes the ‘very affable and approachable’ Nick Goulding, managing partner Paul Trudgill, who specialises in traditional corporate matters and Chris Wilson, who advises on MBOs, acquisitions and disposals, restructurings, shareholder agreements, and partnership and LLP matters. The team acts for large regional companies including Pressure Technologies, Acorn Industrial Services, Horbury Group and new client Hill Care, as well as ELG Haniel Metals and its German parent company ELG Haniel. The group is advising new client UK Steel Enterprise, a subsidiary of TATA Steel, on its debt and equity investments. Matt Ainsworth and associate solicitor Michael Hall joined from Irwin Mitchell.

Lupton Fawcett LLP’s team is led by Leeds-based Andrew Lindsay, who has longstanding expertise acting for directors and shareholders based across the UK. The Sheffield office is led by Michele Phillips, who recently advised a property group on a multimillion-pound portfolio refinancing of multiple industrial and office sites, including a partial transfer to a Jersey holding company. Other highlights include advising Redemption Holding Company on the acquisition of Redemption Food, which involved a five-person MBO/MBI team. Senior consultant Max Kennedy assisted with the circa £4.5m combined purchase of two Nottingham-based care homes. Neil Large, the former head of corporate at Taylor & Emmet LLP, recently joined the firm, bolstering the team’s expertise in cross-border, high-value transactions.

At Bell & Buxton, practice headAlex Ross specialises in advising on MBOs/MBIs, M&A, minority shareholder advice, partnership and shareholder agreements and disputes, distribution and agency agreements, corporate finance, and succession issues. Emma Digby has a commercial focus, advising on the implementation of new company structures, risk management, and commercial contracts, as well as handling M&A. Recent highlights include advising Sheffield Credit Union on its merger with Rothersave Credit Union and handling a high-value acquisition for Insulated Tools. Other clients include True North Brew Co., Livefoods Direct, and Motorway Direct.

Irwin Mitchell’s practice is led by Laurence Gavin; his recent work includes advising Westfield Contributory Health Scheme on a joint venture and investment into 3Rings Care, which included a second round of investment. Other highlights include advising currency hedge fund manager, SLJ Macro Partners, on the transfer of a 65% equity holding in the business to Italian investment bank Eurizon Capital, and advising a regional plc client on public company transactional and regulatory matters. Andrea Cropley joined Squire Patton Boggs’ Manchester office, and solicitor Michael Hall and Matt Ainsworth joined HLW Keeble Hawson.

Rob Moore is head of Taylor & Emmet LLP’s practice, and is supported by commercial property partner Richard Kay. The team routinely acts for high-profile regional clients, including NG Bailey and Shepcote Engineering. Recent highlights include advising various shareholders on selling stakes in businesses in sectors including manufacturing, automobile, and pharmaceutical. The group also has notable strength handling MBO/MBIs, reorganisation and restructuring, franchising, start-up and joint venture issues, partnership formations and dissolutions, shareholder agreements and disputes, commercial contracts and pre-sale legal audits. Neil Large joined Lupton Fawcett LLP.

Wake Smith Solicitors Limited’s practice head Duncan Shepherd recently acted for the sellers in the £6m disposal of Evantage Consulting, a healthcare consulting business, to NHiS, a subsidiary of LSE-listed Wilmington. Fellow director John Baddeley led negotiations pertaining to the £9.6m disposal of Price Thomas, the parent company of Granville Oil & Chemicals, to Tide Water Oil, and also handled the sale of shareholdings for the sellers of CH4 Gas Utility and Maintenance Services, to AIM-listed Smart Metering Systems. Associate solicitor Rebecca Robinson and assistant solicitor Gavin Hesketh are other names to note.

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