Addleshaw Booth & Co is doubling the size of its PFI practice with three partners from the London office of Buchanan Ingersoll.
The US firm decided in June to ditch its highly-rated PFI team, headed by Barry Francis. Francis has since opted to join Pinsent Curtis Biddle, and the other three partners comprise the remainder of the abandoned group.
Six partners joined Buchanan at the beginning of 2000 from Beachcroft Wansbroughs to launch the office's healthcare PFI practice. One of the partners, Lawrence Bruce, has moved to Field Fisher Waterhouse, while the last of the six, Peter Brazel, is the only one to remain with the firm.
The three joining Addleshaws are Diane Wilson, David Hartley and Michael Park. All join as salaried partners, the same positions that they held at Beachcrofts.
They bring the PFI practice in Addleshaws to six partners, as they join Mike O'Connor, Frank Suttie and Jacqui Langley-White. The latter is the only PFI partner currently based in the firm's London office, which is where the three new hires are heading, so it will be London that receives the biggest boost – the office will grow from 16 to 19 partners.
Head of finance at Addleshaws Mark Chidley said that, with the new additions, the firm hoped to pull ahead of rivals Pinsent Curtis Biddle and Eversheds in the market.
“There's a large number of City firms involved in PFI, but they're increasingly finding the pressure on the margins of this work tricky,” he said. “We think there are opportunities to win this work away from a number of those major firms.
“We see two of the strongest competitor firms as Pinsent Curtis Biddle and Eversheds – I feel we've sort of pulled ahead of those folk because we have a more consistent and coordinated team nationally.”
“There's a large number of City firms involved in PFI, but they're increasingly finding the pressure on the margins of this work tricky”
Mark Chidley, Addleshaw Booth & Co
He said he contacted the three partners about joining the firm after reading in The Lawyer that Buchanan was set to dump the practice (The Lawyer, 25 June).
“It came to my mind when I read that article that here was an opportunity for us to strengthen the team,” he said.
With the new additions, the firm plans to attack the funders side of the PFI market; it is already doing a lot of work for NHS trusts and other public sector clients, and for private sector clients such as Jarvis. In May this year, the firm advised Jarvis on its successful bid to design, build, finance and operate one of the UK's largest schools PFI projects with Wirral Borough Council, valued at more than £200m.
The firm is already breaking into funding work, providing advice for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland, but the team at Buchanan has been doing much more, in particular team member Park, who trained as a banking lawyer with Lovells before moving into PFI.
Wilson said that this was one of the reasons the three decided to join Addleshaws. When they were told by Buchanan about the closure of the practice they decided that they would like to move as a unit.
She said: “We spoke to a few firms, the obvious players in the market, and we liked the culture at Addleshaws and thought that by going there we could make a difference. They had a good, established practice, but we thought we could make a difference, particularly to the London practice which is relatively new.”
The new team members have experience of acting in PFI hospital projects and have completed seven recent deals with a cumulative value of almost £500m. They have also worked on education-related projects with a total value of nearly £90m.