Corporate and commercial: Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in South West

Ashfords LLP

Ashfords LLP's 'impressive' team is most noted for its work in the technology, retail and financial services sectors. The offering in Exeter was boosted when Andrew Betteridge transferred from the Bristol office; Betteridge leads on corporate transactions, as well as heading the business services division. The commercial team is led by Brian Farrell, who assists with commercial transactional work, including in relation to the renewable energy sector. The 'superbMark Lomas, who chairs the firm, has developed a niche in acting for luxury fragrance clients, as well as advising on commercial intellectual property and IT law. Firm CEO Louise  Workman is a retail sector expert and an M&A veteran.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Betteridge; Brian Farrell

Other key lawyers:

Louise Workman; Mark Lomas

Testimonials

‘What stands out has always been their obvious interest in our organisation, genuine enthusiasm and keenness to understand what is needed, and why. And they have such an incredibly speedy grasp of what is important, which is really impressive.’

‘As a large regional firm Ashfords are perfect for us, combining a breadth of knowledge and expertise with accessibility, which has only been enhanced by the remote working measures they have implemented over the last year.’

‘Both Mark Lomas and Louise Workman are impressive in their ability to quickly grasp the bones of the issue at hand, and what we are trying to achieve in our contractual negotiations with customers, suppliers and business partners. As a business operating in a fairly niche sector we are aware that the intellectual property details at the heart of our discussions can be hard to grasp; Mark in particular is superb at assimilating new concepts and seems as excited by our projects and developments as we are.

Key clients

Curtis Bank Group Plc

Lloyd Warwick International

SimplyCook

Eden Ventures

Form 3

Fontaine Ltd (Creed)

Attomarker Ltd

Toshi Technologies Ltd

Valeport Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising well-known classic car expert Edward Lovett on the launch of a new online auction platform, Collecting Cars.
  • Advising Viridor on cross-border sale agreements with Unilever and Proctor & Gamble, among others, in France, the US and Singapore, in relation to products manufactured from its polymer plant.
  • Advising Nordson Corporation Plc on the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of vivaMOS Ltd by its subsidiary Dage Precision Industries Limited.

Foot Anstey

The lawyers in Foot Anstey's Exeter and Plymouth offices stand out for their expertise in private equity investments, both handling transactions and supporting London law firms on due diligence projects and bolt-on work. The group's local practice comprises of M&A transactions across the South West. Heading the team is Matthew Stoate, who takes the lead on private equity matters. Duncan Sykes runs the entrepreneurial and private companies offering, additionally assisting energy and renewables sector clients. Chris Worrell is in charge of the business group, advising on M&A and group restructurings.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Stoate

Other key lawyers:

Duncan Sykes; Chris Worrell

Key clients

White Bear Capital group and its executive management/majority shareholders

Zenergi group

Air IT group

Charterhouse Voice & Data Limited

CODE group

Supporting Education Group Limited

Plymouth Argyle Football Club Limited

Eden Project Limited

The shareholders of K2 Medical Systems Holdings Limited

The shareholders of WiFi SPARK Limited

The shareholders of Suttons Seeds Limited

Innova Capital Limited

Envision Pharma Holdco Limited

Executive management team of ClimateCare

Livingbridge / Phoenix

Work highlights

  • Advised the executive management team (and majority shareholders) of White Bear Capital group (backed by Alchemy) on an £80m investment by Alchemy.
  • Advised four portfolio companies (Charterhouse, Air IT, Zenergi and CODE) of private equity house August Equity on numerous bolt-on acquisitions during 2020.
  • Advised the shareholders of W. Stevenson & Sons Limited (a family-owned company) on the sale of 70% of the entire issued share capital of the company to Vistgate Limited, part of the Ocean Fish group.

Laceys

In Bournemouth, Laceys' corporate and commercial department has an extensive track record of advising clients in the technology, energy and insurance sectors, although it also has a regular diet of work in the hospitality and leisure space. The department is led by 'rock starSam Freeman, whose corporate transactional expertise includes M&A and restructurings. Natasha Jones is knowledgeable in share transactions, company restructurings, shareholder agreements and partnerships. Associate Ella Gould is increasingly active in company law matters.

Practice head(s):

Sam Freeman

Other key lawyers:

Natasha Jones; Ella Gould; Victoria Boynes-Butler

Testimonials

‘Having worked with a few different law firms in the past, I have been blown away by the team at Laceys. Their attention to detail, communication and personal touch makes them a valuable partner to my business.’

‘Sam Freeman is a rock star. He has been such a help to me and my business. His advice, time commitment and genuine desire to add value is something that I feel very grateful to have received. He is extremely commercial and also has great social and personal skills, something I believe is a very rare and powerful combination for a lawyer.’

Key clients

Home Grown Hotels Limited

Limewood Group Limited

Wessex Group Limited

Virginia Hayward Limited

Direct Insurance Group PLC

Utility Point Limited

Williams Jet Tenders Limited

Lester Aldridge LLP

Lester Aldridge LLP‘s team in Bournemouth provides a full corporate and commercial service to clients, with a major focus on the SME market. The ‘straight talking‘ Grant Esterhuizen heads the group, and has substantial experience in commercial contracts and joint venture agreements, sitting alongside his M&A practice. Dean Drew is another core team member, and his varied practice encompasses M&A, disposals, equity investments, group restructurings and share deals. Promoted to partner in November 2020, Edward Adamson is developing a name for himself among clients in the care, hotel and leisure sectors.

Practice head(s):

Grant Esterhuizen

Other key lawyers:

Dean Drew; Edward Adamson

Testimonials

‘They are investing in technology in the practice. It is a diverse team with different backgrounds, all working towards a common goal with real collaboration.’

‘The team is accessible, dynamic, welcoming and knowledgeable.

‘Grant Esterhuizen demonstrates excellence in leadership and practice.’

‘The range of services which they can assist with makes them a one-stop shop. You can call with a question or issue to be resolved and they can keep the service in-house and provide the advice required.’

‘Grant Esterhuizen is straight talking and enables you to make decisions.’

Key clients

ESET Software UK Limited

Osprey Europe Limited

Ocean Yacht Systems

Mar-Key Marquees Limited

Webeast Ltd

Langham Industries Limited

Daish’s Group

Apex Group Limited

Orbis Software Limited

Hectic (Europe) Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Appledore Land Limited (owned by Langham Industries) on the sale of all the Appledore Shipyard assets to InfraStrata in a deal worth £7m.
  • Advised The Apex Group on the acquisition of Investor Administration Services Limited (a company in the financial services sector providing transfer agency services) from Professional Partners Administration Limited.
  • Advised Daish’s Group on its acquisition of two hotels (The Imperial, Eastbourne and the Abbey Lawn, Torquay) and a coach business (Robinsons Coaches).

Michelmores LLP

In Exeter, the team at Michelmores LLP has significant experience in share transactions and private equity investments, in addition to M&A deals. Energy and infrastructure projects are a mainstay for Alexandra Watson, who advises investors and developers across the country. The department is co-led by Richard Cobb and Henry Taylor, both of whom are seasoned M&A lawyers. Stephen Morse's practice has a strong focus on the SME market, where he advises investors and investees. Samantha Billingham runs the joint ventures and professional practices group, having developed a specialism in partnership law. Senior associate Francesca Hubbard is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Richard Cobb; Henry Taylor

Other key lawyers:

Stephen Morse; Samantha Billingham; Alexandra Watson; Francesca Hubbard

Key clients

Haynes Publishing Group PLC

Sutton Harbour Holdings PLC

Succession Group Ltd

Seasalt Limited

Emma Bridgewater Limited

UKRD Group

Armstrong Capital Management

Mindful Chef

Exeter Rugby Club (Exeter Chiefs)

Horwood Homewares Limited

Downing LLP

Ocean Fish (Vistgate Limited)

Pay4Later Limited (Deko)

Work highlights

  • Advised longstanding client Haynes Publishing Group PLC on its £114m sale to a French buyer.
  • Acting for DSM on its cornerstone investment in Phynova.
  • Acting for Mindful Chef on its landmark Nestle deal, partial exit for founders and exit for Seedrs and Crowdcube investors.

Stephens Scown LLP

Stephens Scown LLP's corporate and commercial team is specialised in advising SMEs and owner-managed businesses in the South West, but it also assists a number of national and international clients with their corporate deals. The team has varied experience in the leisure, natural resources, food and financial services sectors, and is well integrated into the firm's wider platform, drawing on its public procurement and state aid capabilities. The department is jointly led by transactional lawyer Giles Dunning and the 'outstanding' Laurie Trounce, who has significant commercial and company law experience. Christian Wilson is another core team member, whose practice focuses on employee ownership. Senior associate Tim Lane is an expert in incorporations and the administration of corporate entities. In June 2020, the group was joined by David Gebbie from OTB Eveling, bringing with him a pedigree in local M&A.

Practice head(s):

Giles Dunning; Laurie Trounce

Other key lawyers:

Christian Wilson; David Gebbie; Gavin Poole; Helen Wallwork; Simon Morris; Tim Lane

Testimonials

‘Local knowledge and sector knowledge.’

‘The staff are approachable and always willing to answer any queries. They have been using technology to enable virtual meetings in place of face-to-face appointments.’

‘Christian Wilson has been very approachable and willing to answer questions from all staff regarding employee ownership. He has been extremely supportive to us all throughout the process. He has given us all as much time and support in the transfer to employee ownership as each individual required.’

‘Giles Dunning is pragmatic, unflustered, approachable and commercial.’

‘Specialism in employee ownership.’

‘Christian Wilson is dedicated to employee ownership and has developed a strong practice around this, in which I have enjoyed working with him on many projects in the last two years.’

‘The personal approach of the team makes working with Stephens Scown very easy. They are very responsive to our requests, providing regular guidance and support. Nothing is too much trouble and we really appreciate the whole team approach, in that they are quick to bring in a colleague who can provide that particular level of expertise.’

‘Their professional, friendly approach always make you feel that they can help and support you through the issue you have. Laurie Trounce is outstanding and we are very confident in the working relationship we have with her.’

Key clients

Damia Group

Altec & Victoria

Luxtripper Limited

Montane Limited

Omniscope Limited

Nozzle.ai Limited

CORSERV Limited

Imerys

St. Austell Brewery

Truro and Penwith College

Phoenix Learning & Care

Work highlights

  • Acted for the shareholders of Montane Limited on the sale of Montane Limited to Inverleith Limited, a transaction which involved over 20 individual shareholders, an Enterprise Investment Scheme application and an intricate Enterprise Management Incentive scheme.
  • Assisted Damia Group, based in Guildford, Edinburgh and Portugal, on transferring to 100% employee owned.
  • Advised a high-tech, artificial intelligence start-up company which was spun out of University College London on a secondary financing involving over 20 shareholders and six new investors, including Angel Co Fund, London City investment Fund and UCLTF.

Steele Raymond LLP

Steele Raymond LLP‘s ‘professional and dependable‘ Bournemouth-based team is known for its M&A work across the region, as well as for its multifaceted commercial offering. Areas of expertise include IT contracts, incentive schemes, share buy-backs and management buyouts, as well as franchise work. The department as a whole is led by Tim Stone, appreciated for his ‘calm, thoughtful and practical counsel‘, who is an M&A specialist. Solicitor Shaun Guppy is an up-and-coming member of the team, regularly assisting with corporate transactions. Paula Eckton has responsibility for the development of the team’s commercial work.

Practice head(s):

Tim Stone

Other key lawyers:

Paula Eckton; Shaun Guppy; Alexandra Clapp

Testimonials

‘Extremely thorough in their work and attentive to the client’s requirements.’

‘Professional, dependable, friendly, experienced, and very good communicators.’

‘Overall, the team has provided us with excellent advice over the last 12 months, culminating in the sale of our business. Lines of communications were maintained during Covid lockdowns via Teams meetings.’

‘We valued Tim Stone’s calm, thoughtful and practical counsel, especially when matters pertaining to the transaction became protracted and tricky. This led to a successful result.’

‘There is a wide range of experience and knowledge across the team, with subject experts available to give advice and guidance.’

‘The team are very knowledgeable on their subject areas, able to clearly explain issues and concepts in layman’s terms, and give great guidance on issues, both in legal and commercial terms. This gives me great confidence in the advice given by the practice.’

‘Their people are their best asset: individuals you genuinely want to get to know, who are always pragmatic and looking to deliver the best commercial solution within the boundaries of the law and legal precedent.’

‘It is a smaller personnel business but large enough to offer all corporate services. For me it is essential that I can get all aspects of a matter covered by one firm with sufficient in-house knowledge, resource and scope.’

Key clients

Harvest Fine Foods

Mediaology

Arden Group

Estate of Robert Braithwaite (founder of Sunseeker International Yachts)

Slumbersac

The Drewitt Group of Companies

The Clark Group

The Hill Brush Company Limited

Goadsby Estate Agency Group

Fusion Wifi

Work highlights

  • Advising the Drewitt Group in connection with the management buy-out of its electrical and fire safety division.
  • Advising Hotel Terravina Limited in connection with its sale of “Spot in the Woods” to hotel group Hillbrooke Hotels.
  • Advising the Riskstop Group in connection with various commercial arrangements with customers and suppliers.

Tozers Solicitors LLP

The Exeter team at Tozers Solicitors LLP offers a 'personal, efficient and comprehensive service', with particularly significant experience in corporate transactions relating to home and holiday parks and the hotels and leisure sector, as well as handling deal work for charities. The group is led by James Orpin, while Amy Laver takes the lead on many holiday park-related transactions, in addition to supporting the firm's charity and education sector clients. Both are highlighted by clients for their 'calm reason and pragmatic commercialism'.

Practice head(s):

James Orpin

Other key lawyers:

Amy Laver

Testimonials

‘I have been most impressed with the entire team at Tozers. They have completed the work required diligently and under a tight timescale. It is refreshing these days for lawyers to get on with the job succinctly rather than drag matters out as many seem to these days.’

‘They all just got on with it.’

‘Tozers are big enough to deal with all the issues but small enough to care about their service.’

‘James Orpin is smart. He represented our interests well, handled everything in a timely manner and involved a first-class team, as appropriate. Importantly, James took the time to make everything appear straightforward. At all times, James portrayed himself as an absolute equal to the phalanx of lawyers representing the purchaser: we were in capable hands.’

‘Personal, efficient and comprehensive service. Friendly, great value and knowledgeable.’

‘As with any successful professional firm, it is the willingness of the partners to personally engage with other advisers and clients, to listen and understand the issues and to collaborate on solving them, that makes it stand out. ’

‘I have worked with James Orpin and Amy Laver in the corporate team over several years and numerous transactions. Their calm reason and pragmatic commercialism has helped get many deals over the line during the tricky final stages.’

Key clients

Kensa Group Limited

Haulfryn Group Limited

Duo Group Holdings Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised the ownership of Kensa Group Limited on the sale of shares representing investment by Legal and General Capital.
  • Acted for the shareholders of Redvers and Denzil Rice Farms Limited in the share sale of a long-established family holiday park business.
  • Acted for Davidson Gray Holdings Limited on the sale of shares in the company, the owner of a care home in Devon.

Trethowans LLP

Trethowans LLP's 'effective and efficient' team in Bournemouth works closely with the firm's Southampton offices. On the corporate front, the group has expertise in corporate finance, investments and shareholder transactions, as well as joint-venture agreements. Commercial work includes a weighty outsourcing contracting practice, as well as work relating to distribution, logistics and supply-of-goods and services agreements. Mark Nixon, an experienced M&A lawyer, leads the team.

Practice head(s):

Mark Nixon

Testimonials

‘Effective and efficient.’

‘The Trethowans team are a seamless extension of our organisation, able to support on contract negotiations across a broad spectrum of sectors, whether supply chain, technology or commercial.’

Key clients

Riskstop Group Limited

Saint-Gobain / Jewson

The Property Franchise Group plc

Belport Investments LLP

Britvic plc

Bacardi-Martini

Kinetic Games Limited

The Army Museums Ogilby Trust

Work highlights

  • Advising well-known brand Britvic plc on commercial contracts, including an agreement with Encirc for glass bottle supply.
  • Advising the shareholders of South Milford Holdings on the sale of the entire issued share capital of the company to Huws Gray.
  • Advised Belport Investments LLP on the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of J. & D. Edgar Limited from family shareholders and trusts.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP's 'consistent and responsive' business services department is highly experienced in M&A; practice head Neil Cook specialises in care home transactions locally and nationally and 'understands commercial issues'. 'Very knowledgeable' associate Abi Sinden is building a strong retail and e-commerce practice, while veteran transactional lawyer Hugh Craig focuses on equity investments.

Practice head(s):

Neil Cook

Other key lawyers:

Hugh Craig; Abi Sinden

Testimonials

‘The Ellis Jones legal team are second to none. Having used their services across a broad spectrum of legal matters both privately and for my business, I have found them to be consistent and responsive as well as innovative and proactive.’

One call or email always results in a swift response and immediate direction to the specialist solicitor for the matter concerned.’

‘They are a well-established firm with a good breadth of knowledge and service offering.’

‘Neil Cook has specialisms in the care sector and, having had his own business previously, understands commercial issues as deals take place.’

‘They are a forward-thinking firm. It is refreshing to have a range of experts on hand and available in any area. They have teams of people with an array of skills, ranging from trainees to expert partners, which demonstrates that they are all for the people, whether you are looking for a career in the field of law or a client looking to tap in to their resource.’

‘They build relationships on a personal level, not only to get to know you, but this helps gets to know your business and its needs. I deal with Abigail Sinden on a very regular basis. She is very knowledgeable in her field and a truly amazing person.’

‘Hugh Craig and Neil Cook have brought a focus to the development of a restructuring of our business, which will help to enhance structures and compliance going forward.

Hugh Craig brings many years of experience and contacts to discussions of complex issues.

Key clients

Wessex Retail Limited

Not Just Travel (Agency) Ltd

Amanda Harrington London Limited

Intertec-Hess GmbH

Science for Sport

Work highlights

  • Advising Wessex Retail on the purchase of 200 convenience stores over the next five years.

Frettens LLP

At Frettens LLP, clients include businesses in the sports, care and technology sectors, but the group has particular experience in advising property-based investment and manufacturing companies. Active areas for the 'excellent' group include company reorganisations, as well as management buyouts, share buybacks and M&A. The department is led by 'phenomenal' managing partner Matthew Fretten and includes associate Karen Edwards, who has developed a specialism in M&A relating to veterinary practices.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Fretten; Karen Edwards

Other key lawyers:

Wayne Spolander

Testimonials

‘Matthew Fretten and the team have been phenomenal this year throughout the pandemic, and when the rest of the corporate world shut down Frettens were still at the end of the phone and able to take care of our legal needs through their portal and e-sign capabilities.’

‘Matthew Fretten is my main point of contact at Frettens and he is always quick to respond and very flexible with his timings. I value his feedback and his team’s expertise.’

‘To a person, they deliver a first-class service.’

‘Strong communication, clearly breaking down terminology to cut through legal terms for clarity. Helpful to both my business and personal needs.

Simply the fastest solicitors I have ever worked with to turn around work on tight deadlines.

‘Professional and down to earth.’

Really felt like no question was a burden and always took the time to say hello and ask how things are during calls.’

‘Matthew Fretten heads up an excellent team of skilled lawyers. The firm works in a collegial style, meaning that you always get the right expertise for the issue in hand. I have first-hand experience of corporate, real estate and employment lawyers, all of whom have been excellent.’

Key clients

Kredufin Beheer B.V

Priory Veterinary Group (Christchurch) Ltd

Fox Hound Capital Ltd

Decorum Vending

AFC Bournemouth

Electronic Tecnicians Ltd

Lightwell Inc

Pivotal Housing Association

Event London Ltd

Peter Hall Ltd

IT Support Business Services Ltd

John Reid & Sons (Strucsteel) Holdings

Larger London Land Company

Modulift Group

Techneds Limited

Aviation & Defence Spares Ltd

Keytek Group Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advised John Reid & Sons on a multimillion-pound funding agreement in connection with the relocation and acquisition of additional freehold premises, EMI option scheme implementation and general legal issues.
  • Advised Fox Hound Capital on the sale of the entire issued share capital of a property development SPV (Fox Alpha SPV Ltd) for around £6.5m to a private funder.
  • Providing ongoing corporate advice to IT Support Business Services as the group expanded in 2020, including advising on two acquisitions and EMI share option schemes.

Murrell Associates

The 'very responsive and proactive' team at Murrell Associates in Truro is best known for advising local Cornish, national and European clients on corporate transactions, with a longstanding presence in the renewable energy sector. The team is led by the 'excellentHenry Maples, whose expertise spans M&A, equity investments, group restructurings and shareholders' agreements. In May 2020, the firm brought on senior associate Nikki Reid from Birketts LLP, adding further expertise in share transactions.

Practice head(s):

Henry Maples

Other key lawyers:

Nikki Reid

Testimonials

‘Working with Murrells is like working with colleagues: they understand our business and work together with us. I feel incredibly safe in their hands. They are there to explain all aspects of a matter, advise on what is normal, answer questions and not make you feel like an idiot for asking them. They provide assistance where required and don’t try to scare you into extras. We discuss what we can each do to progress the transaction.’

‘Henry Maples is a real joy to work with – polite, engaging, knowledgeable, reassuring and always there to help and stop me panicking.’

‘The ethos running through Murrell Associates is unlike any other law firm. The welcome to owners of all sizes of organisations and start-ups is enquiring, helpful, collaborative and flexible. I have found the whole team without exception to be interested in my business.’

‘Some firms bill first, talk and explain later. That’s never the case with Murrell’s team. I have particularly valued the wisdom, insight and availability of Henry Maples. Henry will often email updates in evenings and weekends.’

‘We have only been clients for a short while but in that time the partner and staff that have been dealing with us have been terrific in understanding our needs and providing timely advice. Murrell’s approach is at least of an equal standard to the large London firms and their timing is refreshingly quick. Their inter-personal skills are excellent.’

‘Henry Maples is excellent in giving timely advice and organising his staff to cover the slightly diverse nature of our business and background.’

‘Great attention to detail.’

‘Very responsive and proactive in proposing solutions.’

Key clients

Cornish Pirates Limited

Ibv Vogt GmbH

Kronos Solar Projects GmbH

Jigsaw XYZ Limited

Hub Box Limited

Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company Limited

Green Light PBS Limited

Clean Earth Energy Limited

Finisterre UK Limited

ISO Spaces South West Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising the management of MTD South West Limited on the sale of the entire share capital of the company to Ross-shire Engineering Limited.
  • Advising the management of Murray Technical Services Limited on the sale of the entire share capital of the company to Ross-shire Engineering Limited.
  • Advising Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company on its £250,000 equity investment round.

Porter Dodson LLP

Porter Dodson LLP's corporate and commercial team has a strong offering for SMEs and owner-managed business, with experience in management buyouts, both on the buy and sell side. The group has expertise in share transactions, advising financial advisers. Another strong suit is advising on GP practice integrations, drawing on experience in partnership law which extends to farming and landowning clients. Evelyn Adfield leads the team, which includes associates David Culshaw, a transactional lawyer, and partnership expert Sarah Young.

Practice head(s):

Evelyn Adfield

Other key lawyers:

David Culshaw; Sarah Young

Testimonials

‘What really stood out was how well they listened to my wishes, the fantastic advice that they provided and the personal service. I had the mobile number of the solicitor I was dealing with and it was clear she was determined to do the very best she could for me.’

‘The difference at this firm is in the provision of the core service and doing this effectively and in a timely manner, while explaining the legal details in terms a layperson can understand.’

‘Ability to see the commercial context, excellent technical and communication skills.’

‘Evelyn Adfield and her team have always excelled and managed successful outcomes.’

‘Attention to detail, hardworking and understanding our needs.’

Key clients

Wyvern Health Partnership

Exmoor Medical Centre

Prognostix-Poultry Limited

Fast2Fibre Limited

Group Silverline Limited

Work highlights

  • Acting for the shareholders of the target company on the £10m disposal of a gin distillery to a PLC purchaser listed on the secondary market.
  • Advised Wyvern Health Partnership on the merger of five GP practices across Swindon to form a super-partnership of 20 partners looking after approximately 80,000 patients.
  • Advising Innovative Cabling Solutions Group on corporate arrangements, funding and investment through corporate and private individuals, as well as on multimillion-pound commercial supply contracts with overseas customers.