New firm Mourant Ozannes is due to come into being on 1 May, with the merger creating a 50-partner firm with offices in the Channel Islands and Cayman Islands and a representative office in London.
Ozannes managing partner Rob Shepherd, who will become managing partner of Mourant Ozannes’ Guernsey office, said the merger talks between the two firms had begun last June, but that Appleby’s thrust into the jurisdiction had hastened the merger.
“We were going to merge anyway, but it gave credence to our suspicions that there were going to be new entrants to the islands, particularly from Caribbean-based firms,” Shepherd said.
Conyers Dill & Pearman has stated a clear interest in launching a Guernsey base (The Lawyer, 18 January) and it is understood that Walkers is also looking for an opening.
The new-look Mourant Ozannes will be run by a management committee comprising representatives of both firms. Mourant managing partner Jonathan Rigby will take on the role of group managing partner, while Ozannes senior partner Peter Ferbrache will retain his title at the new firm. Mourant chairman Ian James will be chairman of the combined entity.
According to Rigby, the opportunity to merge was “too good to miss”.
“We were struck by the remarkable similarities between the two firms – the cultures are clearly compatible,” he added. “In contrast to our competitors, who’ve been expanding, our strategy has been to consolidate in Cayman, Jersey and Guernsey.”