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Regional firm Howes Percival has had its contracts renewed for the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) director's disqualification work (The Lawyer, 1 April). It will carry out all the Anglian work and share half of the London work with ASB Law. Partners Mark Oxley and Nick Gordon will lead a team of nine other fee-earners from the Norwich office.
The 32-partner firm has four offices in Leicester, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Norwich, with a projected turnover of £12.4m. Senior partner Michael Percival, the seventh generation Percival in the firm, is close to retirement, with none of his three daughters following in the family tradition.
The new blood comes instead from employment partner John Taylor, formerly with Nelsons, who started in October at the Leicester office, and commercial litigation partner Andrew Myers in Milton Keynes, who arrived from Travers Smith Braithwaite. Julian Hayes is due to start in Norwich on 1 May from Leathes Prior and former head of legal at BMW/Rover Group Andrew Armitage started at the firm as a partner a few weeks ago.
Over the last year, the corporate finance department has acted on 75 deals, with an aggregate value of £1bn. The firm has been instructed by DaimlerChrylser (UK) in a significant acquisition programme. There have been five acquisitions in the last four months and 12 more are planned for late June.
Milton Keynes-based company commercial partner Brandon Ransley explains another key relationship, with Volkswagen. "We don't act for them, they operate a sponsored dealer scheme," he says. "They want the dealerships to be owned by individuals, not big groups. We're the recommended lawyers for the individuals. We do about 12 acquisitions for Volkswagen-sponsored dealers per year." The Milton Keynes office also acted on the £16m management buyout of Tripod Crest in December.
Company commercial partner Jit Singh says: "I did a deal very recently for Ricardo plc, where they entered into a worldwide joint venture with Schenck Pegasus GmbH. It was a very difficult deal; it took nine months to complete. There were a lot of competition issues." The Leicester office has also acted for Dunsterville Allen in a contested hostile takeover bid and Personal Group Holdings, recently listed on AIM.
Howes Percival has the British Institute of Innkeepers franchise to supply bespoke training courses and examine the standard of candidates. In the next two months, the firm plans to go live with a new interactive website, making liquor licences available over the internet. Managing partner Alan Kefford explains: "One client that's becoming increasingly important to us is Number Ten Group. The Ryan Group is another. A lot of our work will be one-offs - pubs, clubs and so on. I guess we've seen a 100 per cent increase in work since starting licensing three years ago." Other growth areas are employment law, environmental and the automotive sector.
Later this year the financial services business will be hived off, reducing the income of the Norwich office by at least £420,000, although the turnover in Norwich is still hoped to rise from £4.2m to £5.3m by 2006.