DEAL OF THE WEEK – TIME GROUP

Time chooses Tite & Lewis to advise on Tiny takeover

Tite & Lewis, the law firm tied to accounting giant Ernst & Young, has won UK computer company Time Group as a new client, advising it on the acquisition of Tiny from administrators Grant Thornton.
The deal leaves Time with around 30 per cent of the UK market in personal computer manufacture and retail.
When Time decided to make a bid for troubled rival Tiny, it only had relationships with small local law firms. The company was started by the Mohsan brothers in a small Blackburn shop in 1987, but now has annual sales of more than £150m. Prior to the Tiny acquisition it was using small law firms for property and consumer work.
However, Time's accountants were Ernst & Young, which recommended Tite & Lewis as corporate adviser for the deal. Tite & Lewis currently receives a fairly low proportion of its work from Ernst & Young – just 30 per cent. The firm wants to push that up to around 60 per cent and Time-Tiny is just the type of deal that the corporate department needs to get involved in.
Corporate partner Victor Allen led the team for Tite & Lewis. His instructions from Time were initially for a share purchase of Tiny, which was agreed subject to due diligence. However, according to Allen, the joint Tite & Lewis-Ernst & Young team found that “there were things about the target that were not acceptable”.
While negotiations continued, the condition of Tiny worsened and the company headed into administration. According to Grant Thornton, Tiny's retail sales fell by more than 40 per cent last year to around £197m. In a climate of savage competition, Tiny collapsed and Time was able to snap up the defunct retailer from the administrators at a bargain price.
Grant Thornton appointed Lovells as its legal adviser on an administration complicated by Tiny's Jersey registration. A Lovells team of Matthew French and David Lacey led in London, with Anthony Dessain from Bedell Cristin in Jersey.
Tite & Lewis claimed that the deal is also a good example of the cooperative advantages of a multi-disciplinary approach. Allen said: “It was a clear demonstration of where the benefits of working with Ernst & Young to provide an integrated service have borne fruit.”
The integration costs of the merger will be around £10m, he added, a slice of which Tite & Lewis will hope to take away for legal services.