CMS Cameron McKenna partners vote yes to Dundas & Wilson takeover

CMS Cameron McKenna and Dundas & Wilson partners have said yes to a £277m-tie-up that will go live in May 2014. 

Sources close to the firms said due diligence began in July but Dundas & Wilson partners were only made aware of the deal late last week.

It is understood that Dundas’ real estate, financial services and energy practices were particularly attractive to CMS.

The Dundas partnership began voting this morning. A 75 per cent majority was required to approve the deal, a threshold that was reached by midday.

The CMS Cameron McKenna partners began voting at midday. By 4pm the required threshold of 80 per cent was reached. A source said: “It was the fastest vote in history.”

All Dundas’s partners will join the equity at CMS Cameron McKenna.

The CMS negotiating team was led by Scotland energy partner Stephen Miller. His negotiation team counterparts at Dundas were Caryn Penley and Allen Wernham. The deal guarantees a seat on the board for a representative of legacy Dundas.

Questions had been raised about the London end of the Dundas practice. One source said: “I think it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that London would go,” commenting that although real estate and the support staff are key in London, “the rest could be cut off completely and it would make little difference”.

However, Camerons sources dismissed suggestions that Dundas’ London office was surplus to requirements. Dundas’ current property obligations come to and end at the same time as Camerons’ and the two sides will be moving into Camerons’ new offices at Cannon Place in May 2015 (see story, 10 April 2013).

The firm shares a number of clients, most notably RBS and Lloyds Bank.

The merger will add Glasgow to CMS’s Aberdeen and Edinburgh offices in Scotland.

The UK end of CMS Cameron McKenna turned over £227.6m last year.

Dundas & Wilson reported a 10.6 per cent fall in turnover from £54.5m to £48.7m (19 July 2013) and started pushing to secure a London merger in May (13 May 2013), following a string of exits in the City and failed talks with Bircham Dyson Bell in 2011 (10 October 2011).

At least 15 partners have left the firm, primarily the City outpost, in the last year (7 February 2013), while in February it confirmed that it had not held any merger talks with rumored suitor Eversheds (15 February 2013).

Merger speculation surrounding Dundas & Wilson intensified earlier this year, as the firm geared up to hold its first partner conference since new management took over in June 2012 (21 June 2012).

At the time, numerous sources in and around Dundas believed that management would use the meeting to float the idea of a merger with Eversheds to its partners, with one source close to the firm saying that it was “the talk around the campfire with partners there”. But sources at both firms have said that this is categorically not true. 

A spokesperson for Dundas quashed any notions of talks with Eversheds, while senior sources at Eversheds denied the existence of any communication between the two firms in relation to a merger.

Eversheds and Dundas did discuss a merger during RBS general counsel Chris Campell’s tenure as Dundas’s managing partner, which was between 1996 and 2005.

In September, Dundas said it would to refocus on growth of its Scottish base, turning away from the firm’s previous strategy of building itself out as a major UK firm (3 September 2013).

Co-managing partner Allen Wernham said at the time that the firm would refocus on its Scottish roots, while honing in three core areas in London: real estate, construction and infrastructure, and restructuring.

Earlier this month CMS announced that the partnership had elected energy partner Penelope Warne as its next senior partner and would replace Dick Tyler as of 1 May 2014 (2 December 2013). 

CMS Cameron McKenna managing partner Duncan Weston said: “I’m very pleased for our clients and both partnerships.”