The Exeter-based team at Ashfords LLP is coordinated from Bristol by Andrew Betteridge, and advises on management buy-outs (MBOs), financial services transactions, corporate restructurings and governance. Louise Workman leads the corporate and commercial team in the office, also heading up the firm's retail sector team. Associates Dominic Ring and Emma Clayton respectively focus on corporate finance and M&A.
Corporate and commercial: Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in South West
Armada Civil Engineering (SW)
Redland Business Solutions
- Advised the shareholders of leading personal care and beauty product maker, Swallowfield, on the sale of its manufacturing business to Canadian group, Knowlton Development Corporation (KDC), in a deal worth £35m.
- Advised on the management buyout of steel stencil foils manufacturer, Datum Alloys, to private equity firm, Rockpool.
- Instructed to deal with the corporate restcturing of Valeport.
In Bournemouth, Lester Aldridge LLP has a full-service corporate team which is geared towards advising regional SMEs and owner-managed businesses, although it also has significant experience with corporate clients. The group is led by corporate and commercial expert Grant Esterhuizen, whose practice spans joint ventures, commercial agreements and M&A, particularly in relation to the IT sector. Geoff Trobridge is an experienced commercial lawyer who has developed a niche in charities, social enterprises and data protection. Susan Cowan is a specialist in matters arising from the healthcare sector. In July 2019, Dean Drew joined the group from Irwin Mitchell and focuses on M&A transactions; an area associate Alexandra Clapp is also noted for.
‘Lester Aldridge demonstrates a unique ability to quickly understand the nature of our business topics and commercial needs, and interpret the law in a simple way which addresses our concerns.’
‘I have nothing but the highest praise for Grant Esterhuizen’s work. His ability to rapidly understand our business needs and interpret the law in a user friendly means that we work really efficiently and effectively together. Grant responds quickly, grasps priorities, and helps guide us through the minefield of commercial law. And he does all this with a smile on his face!‘
ESET Software UK
Enhanced Computer Solutions
Data Installation and Networking Services
Quality Care Group
Affordable Housing and Healthcare Group
Michelmores LLP stands out for the corporate and commercial offerings of its Exeter office, handling corporate finance and M&A, as well as an impressive range of commercial services. Richard Cobb leads the corporate and private wealth teams, and has experience advising national and international corporates and public companies. Tom Torkar takes the lead on commercial work, particularly in relation to the aviation, IT, media, e-commerce and financial services sectors. Also of note, Stephen Morse is an M&A expert, Ian Holyoak specialises in commercial contracts and competition law, while associate Francesca Hubbard is developing a solid corporate practice.
Other key lawyers:
‘Michelmores have a disarmingly informal approach. They just ask simple questions, organise themselves silently, then deliver. It is always a pleasure.’
‘The Michelmores team have worked with us for years and have worked closely with a number of our teams, giving them a unique understanding which means they can turn around agreements very quickly. They are competitively priced and also spend time in our offices on a regular basis.’
‘We work closely with Tom Torkar and Lois Hinchliffe . They are excellent, with a deep understanding of our businesses, a pragmatic approach and are very responsive.’
Succession Group Ltd
Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund
DSM Venturing B.V.
David and Charles
Ocean Fish (Vistgate )
Landmark Information Group (part of Daily Mail Group)
Numatic International (Henry vacuum cleaners)
La Prairie Group (part of Beiersdorf/Nivea Group)
Amersham Investment Management
Armstrong Capital Management
- Acted on the sale of UKRD Group to Bauer, the German-owned media group.
- Advised Soros Economic Development Fund on the sale of its majority stake in the Indian venture capital firm, Aspada, to LGT.
- Advised Foresight Williams Technology EIS Fund and DSM Venturing on their £4.2m investment into Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT).
Steele Raymond LLP has built a strong practice servicing Bournemouth's fast-growing digital and financial services sectors. The group provides a full commercial and corporate law service, with experience in share schemes and management buy-outs, as well as M&A and restructurings involving owner-managed businesses and corporates with operations in the region. The department is led by firm chairman Tim Stone, who clients note 'sets a fine example to the rest of his team with his professionalism and attention to detail'. Paula Eckton is a seasoned company and commercial lawyer who focuses on the firm's IT offering; while Craig Hardman has experience in manufacturing and construction transactions. Paul Longland is an expert in demergers and group reorganisations.
‘There is an excellent team at Steele Raymond. They communicate with each other and the client in a friendly and informative manner. They have a great structure where everyone is aware of each others’ role but will discuss matters outside the remit. The junior members of the team behave in the same way and clearly have their peers’ ethos.’
‘I have dealt with Craig Hardman on a number of occasions, and he has always given 100%, his knowledge is exceptional and, more importantly, he is able to explain the key points in a clear and easy to understand manner.’
‘Tim Stone sets a fine example to the rest of his team with his professionalism and attention to detail.’
‘Craig Hardman’s business acumen and knowledge of our industry is very strong. Quick to understand the gaps in my thinking and to help in a collaborative way to get matters dealt with quickly and thoroughly.’
Parvalux Electric Motors
Estate of Robert Braithwaite (founder of Sunseeker International Yachts)
Challenge Group (HK)
Goadsby Estate Agency Group
Viper 10 Sportswear/Bournemouth 7’s
The Hill Brush Company Limited
- Advised the shareholders of Graytone on the sale of the Group to Addev Materials
- Advised TJD Investments on its acquisition of Earnshaw Engineering.
- Advised Selwood in connection with various UK and international commercial agreements.
Stephens Scown LLP
The team at Stephens Scown LLP has superlative expertise in advising SMEs, owner-managed businesses and national and international companies on corporate transactions, as well as the commercial aspects of their operations. Jointly taking the lead, Christian Wilson and Giles Dunning have broad corporate transactional practices, while Gavin Poole focuses on the food and drink, leisure and tourism sectors. Solicitor Tim Lane is building a practice in corporate transactions, as well as public law.
‘Their Truro and Exeter teams were very affable, approachable and gave good, personal service.’
‘The corporate team were both incredibly professional but also emphathetic, providing an excellent well rounded approach to a corporate sale.’
‘Christian Wilson made what could have been a stressful and tedious process feel well-managed and enjoyable. Not only incredibly professional but clearly a thoroughly decent individual who was a pleasure to spend time with during the transaction.’
Devon Contract Waste
Phoenix Learning and Care Holdings
Kernow Health CIC
The Delivery Group
Cornwall Air Ambulance
Newlyn Pier and Harbour Commissioners
- Simon Morris and James Keliher acted as lead lawyers of a multi disciplinary team, acting on the share acquisition of Onepost by The Delivery Group. The enlarged group will now have a combined annual turnover of £250m, employ 500 staff across seven locations and manage almost a billion items of mail and packages both in the UK and Internationally.
- Assisted with the partial employee buy-out of the founders of Bluefruit Software. The founders decided to utilise an Employee Ownership Buy out from the business to bring the employees into the ownership of the company.
- Advised 30+ shareholders in the sale of a Rickmansworth based wealth management practice controlling almost £500m of funds under management. This was a complex transaction involving the transition of 10+ advisers to the buyer and a significant amount of post completion integration planning.
Foot Anstey's practice is noted for M&A, private equity deals and investments in the region. It is jointly led by Plymouth's Chris Worrell, a corporate generalist, and Karen Bates in Exeter, who specialises in employment and private equity. Matthew Stoate is also recommended, and plays a significant role in M&A-focused private equity deals.
‘Brilliantly practical and give their views on what clients should consider and do (rather than just “seeking client instructions”).‘
‘The skill, experience and expertise of the firm was just as good, if not better than the mid-market (silver circle) firms we typically work with but the value was far better given the charge out rates are more competitive.’
‘Ken Lewins has a great ability to anticipate what is required before being briefed and isreally alive to the commercial challenges the business faces.’
Silvergate Media Group
Barbon Insurance Group
Supporting Education Group
Reed & Mackay Travel
Plymouth Argyle Football Club
- Advised shareholders of the international children’s media business, the Silvergate Media Group, on its sale to Sony Pictures Entertainment.
- Acting for Eden Project on all legal aspects of the set up and operation of Eden Geothermal, a joint venture entity set up to implement a deep geothermal project at the Eden Project site in Cornwall.
- Advising Future plc and Future Holdings 2002 on its strategic acquisition of the Barcroft Studios group, an independent studio backed by Channel Four Investments, that creates original content for publication on a variety of owned and operated social sites, in additional to being distributed across mass media channels.
Heading the team from the Bournemouth office of Laceys, one client praises Sam Freeman as 'quick to provide support, easy to work with and always has our interests at the forefront of his mind'. As a whole, the group is noted for its corporate and commercial work in the technology and media spaces. Natasha Jones is another corporate expert to note.
‘The team is approachable, supportive and incredibly knowledgeable. They have always taken a practical and commercial approach to each of the transactions we have worked on together.‘
‘Flexible and always very eager to help, always available to go the extra mile.‘
‘Sam Freeman is quick to provide support, easy to work with and always has our interests at the forefront of his mind.’
‘Sam Freeman has been a fundamental support to my business.’
Murrell Associates focuses on advising SME clients on corporate and commercial matters. The group handles M&A transactions, as well as offering wider corporate support on employment, commercial contracts, IP and IT issues. Henry Maples leads the team, and has experience in private equity investments. Other lawyers of note include founding partner Hugh Murrell, whose expertise includes shareholding and partnership issues, and senior associate Rebecca Anforth, who leads the IP offering.
‘An excellent team‘
‘Excellent service from all the firm, great range of skills.’
‘Their approach to engaging with me was both friendly and understandable. They explained all the legal terminology in a way that made it easy to understand.‘
‘Henry Maples and Rebecca Ansforth are both experts in their fields and two of the best lawyers I have come across.’
- Advising Jigsaw XYZ on their £3.5m equity investment from Motive Investment Partners.
- Advised individual investors on the sale of 51% of the share capital of Riventa
- Advised Marine & Towage Services Group on two vessel acquisitions and vessel refinancings.
Tozers Solicitors LLP
The team at Tozers Solicitors LLP has particular expertise in hotel and leisure industry work, and has developed a strong MBO practice. The group is led by corporate specialist James Orpin and includes associate Amy Laver, who regularly advises on deals for park operators.
Other key lawyers:
‘Professional, helpful and above all honest with me the whole way through the process.’
‘Approachable team with strong technical skills in their sector and a track record in using those skills to provide pragmatic, commercially focused advice.’
‘Individuals have strong communication skills and take the time to understand the overall aims in the engagement. Solutions are then pragmatic and focused, with good identification and discussion around potential risks rather than simply risk avoidance at all costs.’
‘Honesty, friendliness, easy to understand and the ability to be frank at all times.’
Duo Group Holdings
Munster Joinery UK
- Assisted the selling shareholders with the sale of shares in AES Sustainability Consultants and Domestic Air Leakage Testing Energy Consultants .
- Advised the purchaser of shares in Auto-Sleepers Group
Trethowans LLP's corporate team in Bournemouth is led by Mark Nixon, and is able to advise on all aspects of corporate transactions, including finance and investment, shareholder and joint venture agreements. Nick Gent is another key individual with substantial M&A experience.
Other key lawyers:
Saint-Gobain / Jewson
Mail Solutions Group
The Property Franchise Group plc
- Advised Mark Allen Group on the acquisition of Farmers Weekly from RELX
- Advised a listed company on many commercial agreements, including a significant manufacturing and wholesale agreement
- Advising shareholders on the sale of a multi-country manufacturing company for consideration in excess of £20m
The team at Coodes Solicitors handles corporate transactions and day-to-day commercial work for a range of local SMEs. Sonya Bassett leads the department, focusing on M&A transactions, as well as IP work and commercial contracts.
Other key lawyers:
HUG trading as HUG International
The White Hart (Truro)
Vision Independent Financial Planning
- Advising HUG trading as HUG International and Infinite Choice on all aspects of the Intellectual Property relating to a new software product on behalf on of the client.
- Advising Philip Heslip on the challenging and complex sale of a public house, which included rectifying some previous transfers and ownership rights.
- Advising a client on the complex sale of a franchise business, which is involved with the retail sales of hearing aids.
Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP
Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP's business services department handles corporate transactions as well as a wide range of commercial work for local SMEs, with a particular specialism in the care home sector. Neil Cook leads the team, with substantial experience in M&A.
‘Ellis Jones have provided excellent service to us over many years. They understand the particular nature of our business and all advice has been dealt with rapidly and effectively.‘
‘Offer a range of services, a quick response and helpful and constructive advice.‘
‘Neil Cook is our go-to person for commercial advice. He is accessible, approachable and knowledgeable. Neil provides rapid advice over the telephone followed up by written response.’
Amanda Harrington London
Ipsum Partners (Isle of Man)
M D Care (UK)
- Advised M D Care on the sale of its share capital for £3.2m
- Advised the sellers of Aivly Country Store
- Advised Amanda Harrington London on contracts and distribution agreements.
Founding partner Matthew Fretten leads the group at Frettens LLP, which specialises in SME M&A, as well as handling company reorganisations, share buybacks and equity investments. The team includes associate Karen Edwards, who leads the group in the Ringwood office, handling non-contentious company and commercial work.
Other key lawyers:
‘I have worked with Matthew Fretten and his team for many years. Throughout that time I have received practical, pragmatic, honest, relevant and value for money advice on every occasion. The team is friendly, approachable and obviously close knit. There are no egos, just a commitment to excellent client service and to each other.‘
‘Friendly, insightful, professional advice delivered at an appropriate technical level for the client, accompanied by a quick delivery of well communicated actioned work.‘
‘Matthew Fretten is one of the most down to earth, approachable and practical people that I have ever dealt with.’
Bright Blue Day
Pivotal Housing Association
Transparity IT Solutions
- Advised the US parent company of Lightwell on disposing of its UK subsidiary for an undisclosed sum
- Advised exiting founders of Bright Blue Day on an MBO for established South-coast leading media agency.
- Advised Decorum Vending in respect of a major private equity fund raise
GA Solicitors in Plymouth predominantly advises SMEs and owner-managed businesses on M&A, MBOs and reconstructions. The group also regularly handles commercial contracts, and agreements including joint ventures and franchises. Tony Cusack is noted for commercial work, particularly in relation to the healthcare sector. James Peterson heads the team.
Other key lawyers:
Taxi Services (Plymouth)
Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club
National Westminster Bank Plc
Tavyside Health Centre
Novahomes Plymouth City
The Gerrick Rose Animal Trust
London Resin Company
5D Solutions Group
- Advise Taxi Services on the continued expansion of this group of companies with the acquisition of two more taxi businesses within Plymouth
- Advised Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club on the sale of the freehold property and businesses operated from it
- Supporting Tavyside Health Centre on the merger with/acquisition of another surgery in order to expand the overall size of the practice and providing ongoing support to the practice in terms of restructuring the business.
Kitsons LLP brought in the former managing partner of Ashfords LLP's Torquay office Stuart Mathews, who brings with him substantial corporate experience. The team includes Corri Pedrick, whose practice spans commercial contracts and corporate transactions.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team provides a wide range of business and personal services, as well as specialist advice.’
‘Approachable – they adapt their delivery to the client in front of them.’
‘A strong corporate offering, having recently recruited a highly regarded corporate partner from a rival firm.‘
‘Stuart Mathews, head of corporate, is an excellent lawyer, pragmatic and highly knowledgeable.’
Coastal Care Homes / Devon Care Group
Bishopsteignton House, St Benets Court and Wolborough Court
Elite Accommodation and Facilities
Armada Investments / Armada Asset Finance
One Diversified Holding
- Advised Wignalls on the purchase of the entire issued share capital of Triden from a corporate seller.
- Advised an individual seller in relation to the sale of the entire issued share capital of Ottervale Haulage.
- Advised Coastal Care Homes, Devon Care Group on the simultaneous sale of three care homes in the group.
Knights plc acquired Exeter firm OTB Eveling in December 2020; the local corporate and commercial team assists local, national and overseas clients with their investments in the region.
‘The corporate and commercial team are very approachable and knowledgeable. They have advised on and supported two acquisitions, been particularly helpful in resolving a complex group restructure and provided advice on share option schemes.’
‘James Eveling has been particularly helpful. I appreciate his candour and humour, together with his sound legal advice. We have been ably supported by Rebecca Roberts.’
Porter Dodson LLP
Porter Dodson LLP's team assists SMEs and owner-managed businesses with M&A, as well as regularly advising on MBOs and share transactions. The group, led by Evelyn Adfield,is particularly noted for its expertise in GP practice integrations with NHS Trusts.
‘Fast, efficient and outstanding commercial knowledge.’
‘Excellent technical knowledge, responsive and very commercial.’
‘We found the team at Porter Dodson to possess all the necessary skills and experience to deal with our management buyout. In particular the corporate and HR teams. They were responsive to our needs and pulled out all the stops to deal with last minute issues that were raised.’
‘We really felt that Evelyn Adfield had our interests at heart and went out of her way to ensure we came out with a fair deal acceptable to all parties.’
North Petherton Surgery
The JMC Group
M & D Developments
Luminous Show Technology
GJD Holdings Limited (including the Commercial Transfer group companies)
Gibbins Richards Estate Agents
- Advised the partners of North Petherton Surgery on integration into the Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.
- Advised a seven strong management team on its share buy-out of AES Sustainability Consultants and DALTEC (Domestic Air Leakage Testing Energy Consultants).