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Halliwells executive chairman Ian Austin is to leave the troubled firm to run the commercial litigation department at Manchester firm Heatons.
Until 2009 Austin was managing partner at Halliwells, a role he gave up at the end of last year to take on the newly created role of executive chairman.
In 2005 Austin secured Halliwells’ move into new headquarters at Spinningfields in central Manchester at a top of the market rent of £35 per square foot. Austin also helped negotiate a deal that saw the firm’s then 40 equity partners take a cut of future proceeds from a property sale.
However, when fee income fell the rental obligations led the firm to make a cash call, re-organise its finances and take the unprecedented move of mortgaging its property, fixtures and fittings, LLP goodwill and IP (19 February 2009).
A number of partners left the firm and on 24 June Halliwells filed notice of intention to appoint an administrator (25 June 2010).
Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, HBJ Gateley Wareing and Hill Dickinson are currently in negotiations to purchase the majority of Halliwells’ assets in a move that is expected to see managing partner Jonathan Brown move to Hill Dickinson.
Commenting on Austin’s appointment, Heatons managing partner Matt Fleetwood said: “This is a significant appointment for the firm. Ian is a first-rate litigator with a strong client following and vast experience. He is ideally placed to head our commercial litigation team and to help with the strategic development of the firm.”