Pinsents, NGJ set for January merger

National firm to take over Nicholson Graham & Jones as midmarket consolidates

Pinsents is in merger talks with 48-partner City firm Nicholson Graham & Jones (NGJ). Neither has set a date for a vote, but a deal could be signed by mid-January.

Pinsents, headed by senior partner Julian Tonks, is understood to be interested in NGJ because of the good strategic fit between the two firms, as both are organised into industry-focused business groups.

Earlier this year Pinsents launched a chosen markets strategy, restructuring the firm into six cross-departmental groups: financial services and insurance, government, manufacturing, real estate, services and technology.

NGJ’s six industry groups are: finance; projects; technology, media and sport; manufacturing, distribution and retail; real estate and construction; and travel and leisure.

NGJ generated revenues of £25.7m last year, putting it 64th in The Lawyer 100 when ranked by turnover. A merger would almost double the size of Pinsents’ London office, which is understood to have made revenues of £28m in 2002-03.

Pinsents posted a respectable profits per equity partner figure of £276,000 last year, whereas NGJ’s average profits per equity partner went down by £12,000 to £210,000.

This financial disparity, coupled with the fact that NGJ has 10 partners at the top of the lockstep, could prove an obstacle to the deal, as Pinsents is understood to want to grow London to improve profitability.

Added to this, NGJ had a rent review at the height of the market in March 2001, pushing its rent up to 25 per cent above today’s average rates, and the firm cannot exercise a break clause for more than two years.

Pinsents has recently restructured its London office following its 2001 merger with private equity, pensions and media boutique Biddle.

This summer the firm decided to abandon the defamation market, historically a jewel in the Biddle crown.

This prompted a major coup for Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, which picked up top-tier media partner David Hooper and four of his assistants.

Pinsents and NGJ both refused to comment.