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The end of Chaffe Street marked a new beginning for Brabners
The dissolution of Manchester firm Chaffe Street at the end of last year has substantially bolstered North West firm Brabners (The Lawyer, 7 January). Partners Tom Burton, Mark Brandwood, John Street, Awen Wright and Paul Chamberlain, and senior partner Robert Street, have joined Brabners, creating a Manchester office for the merged firm, which is now known as Brabner Chaffe Street. Brabners managing partner Michael Brabner says: "There seemed to be factions developing quite some time ago at Chaffe Street. Robert [Street] got in touch with me in November, having known me for quite a long time. We felt we had the same business ethos and operated in the same marketplace - it would be a good fit." Street is the senior partner of the Manchester office. "Looking at the figures, Chaffe Street was about 50 people, of which 14 didn't come to us," adds Brabner. "We have the support staff, the legal staff and the bulk of the turnover. It almost doubles our corporate operation overnight. Compared with opening an office in Manchester, it's an excellent opportunity." There are now 160 staff across three offices - Manchester, Preston and Liverpool - the latter being the largest, with 27 of the total 37 partners. There is a Brabner family connection in the Liverpool practice dating back to 1820. Since the team of nine partners joined from Berrymans Lace Mawer at the beginning of last year, Brabners has not had a full accounting year, but projected turnover figures for the year ahead are around £15m. Partner Philip Rees-Roberts left the firm last year to set up on his own in Liverpool. Five partners were made up in September 2001: Mark Rathbone, Andrew O'Mahoney, Rupert Jackson, Joanne Shelley and Paul Lunt. With all the recent newcomers, team cohesion and consolidation is the key objective for the future. "I think we'll continue to grow," says Brabner. "We've got more work than we can probably cope with. Also, considering the changes, it's appropriate that we get out and talk to all the clients. We've done [our mergers] in a way that you'd never recommend a client to do them. The Chaffe Street one was on very short notice and in total confidence. We'd prefer for everyone to know what's going on. With Berrymans, they didn't want the team to leave. It means that we've felt it from the clients' position." Recent transactions include the purchase of business assets from BT Cellnet for A Novo DigiCom; the sale of TrainStation to Dragon Health Clubs in a deal worth £8.4m; and the sale of all the issued capital of Ley Holdings to a management buyout team. April 2001 saw the completion of a 12-month project restructuring of the Riverside Group, with tangible assets of £550m. Brabner says: "An interesting one recently was an equity line of credit - the first one in the country. That was for Rage Software, who raised the facility for about £20m. Which will be as equity if they take it up. Lovells were on the other side."