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Slater & Gordon is on the brink of the consumer law big-time
Australian stock market-listed Slater & Gordon took its first step into the UK legal scene in January 2012 when it announced the planned takeover of Russell Jones & Walker.
The objective of the combined firm has not changed since day one – become the leading legal brand in the consumer market.
Realising the need to bulk up, the firm announced a series of acquisitions in May, with Simpson Millar, Goodmans Law and the personal injury practice of Taylor Vinters in its sights.
These bolt-ons will push the firm closer to its target, but it still faces stiff competition from names already synonymous with consumer law.
Admittedly, high street brands are thin on the ground, but in the corner of the market Slater & Gordon occupies, Irwin Mitchell and Leigh Day dominate.
Should a takeover of Panonne go ahead it would propel Slater & Gordon into the premier league. Not only would it take a rival out of the domestic market but it would also eliminate duplication of the kind of work the firms attract, such as acting for the victims of Savile and the alleged victims of Yewtree defendants.
Sources close to Pannone suggest a due diligence process has been under way for much of the summer, with high-level meetings diarised and then rescheduled in July. So what might be the consequences of any vote? The smart money is on news of a demerger of the private client side of the business, including the personal injury and clinical negligence practices, which will slot into Slater & Gordon in the next couple of weeks. But precisely how the deal will pan out remains unclear.
Pannone’s personal injury side is a profitable and defining feature of the business. A sell-off to Slater & Gordon would provide a healthy war chest with which to take the rest of the business forward, but how would Pannone refashion itself without the personal injury practice?
These are stumbling blocks on the way to a merger, but when have such things ever stopped Slater & Gordon? The firm is on the verge of being one step closer to its target.