DWF seals Cobbetts takeover as Pinsents advises KPMG administrators

Cobbetts went into administration at the High Court today (6 February) with the whole business immediately sold in a pre-pack deal to fellow Manchester firm DWF, confirming the parties’ earlier intentions.

Andrew Leaitherland

Pinsent Masons advised a KPMG team as administrators on the deal. Pinsents’ team was led by restructuring partner Steven Cottee, who also acted for the administrators of Hextalls, and advised Hill Dickinson on its acquisition of Halliwells’ Liverpool and Sheffield offices.

Pinsents instructed Peter Arden QC of Erskine Chambers and St John’s Chambers barrister Martha Maher. Maher was previously instructed by Camerons on behalf of BDO in the Halliwells administration in 2010.

KPMG partners Mark Firmin, Brian Green and Howard Smith were all appointed as administrators today.

In a statement Cottee said: “We were delighted to assist KPMG the administrators of Cobbetts in completing an immediate pre-pack sale to DWF. This was a complex restructuring transaction conducted in a very short period and the transaction has helped protect the interests of a significant number of employees and clients of the firm.”

Cobbetts filed notice to appoint administrators, thereby protecting itself from creditors, on 28 January at the Royal Courts of Justice (30 January 2013). Soon after it emerged that DWF was looking to acquire Cobbetts in a pre-pack deal (31 January 2013). The Lawyer understands there was initially competition from other firms interested in acquiring Cobbetts.

DWF and Cobbetts had been in talks with a merger in 2011/12, but both parties called an end to talks citing uncertain market conditions (31 January 2012).

Last Thursday The Lawyer reported DWF’s stated intentions to acquire Cobbetts (31 January 2013), subject to approval by the administrators, the SRA and Cobbetts’ bank, Lloyds TSB, which is also understood to be DWF’s bank.

At the time, DWF managing partner Andrew Leaitherland said: “DWF’s plans to grow, in a strategic, targeted way have been clearly set out and this move supports that goal. I am confident that the merging of the two firms would bring genuine benefits to both and, importantly, the joint client base. There are many synergies between the two firms in terms of the sectors in which we operate and this collaboration will further strengthen our existing business. I am very much looking forward to welcoming the new team to DWF.”