Charles Russell and Speechly partners say yes to £135m merger

Partners at Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham have today voted favour of merging their firms to create a £135m firm with 170 partners.

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP will go live on 1 November 2014. Headquartered in London, the outfit will have a further eight offices scattered across the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 

The merged firm will retain the existing relationships and networks that its legacy firms had established throughout the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.

The combination will see Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham combine their renowned private wealth practices – orienting their practice largely towards advice for wealthy individuals, family offices, wealth managers and large, privately held businesses worldwide.

Charles Russell’s managing partner Christopher Page said: “One of the many things we share with Speechly Bircham is our reading of private wealth in the fullest sense of that term. The beauty of the new combination is that it gives us real scale – and the ability to invest – across our practice groups.”

Charles Russell Speechlys will be structured around four key divisions: business services, litigation and dispute resolution, private client, and real estate and construction.

The combined firm will be headed by legacy Speechly Bircham managing partner James Carter, with Page becoming senior partner. Both will sit on the firm’s partnership council, with support from three representatives from each legacy firm.

Carter will also chair the firm’s executive committee, which will host the firm’s four department heads (two from each legacy firm), head of integration Green, the firm’s COO Andy Slaite, and compliance director Jonathan Whitehead.

Its international committee will be chaired by Speechly Bircham’s current senior partner, Michael Lingens. Lingens took up the senior partner role in 2013, after spending 15 years as Speechly’s managing partner.

“The real work starts now,” said Speechly Bircham’s managing partner James Carter. “Our integration team, headed by David Green, is tasked with finding the very best elements of both firms and making them work effectively together. It will also be looking at workflow, team combinations and optimal use of office accommodation”.

He continued: “Looking to the future, patterns of global wealth and business are shifting and changing at an unprecedented rate: we aim to be out ahead of them.”

The firm said that it expects “minimal” conflicts or duplication of skills in the aftermath of the combination.

In order for the merger to be rubber-stamped, both firms needed to secure at least 75 per cent approval of the move (16 July 2014).

Management at both firms, led by Page at Charles Russell and Carter at Speechly Bircham, had managed to secure widespread internal support for the tie-up since announcing their discussions in February 2014 (21 February 2014).

Speechly Bircham held regular partner meetings to ensure that the majority of partners remain in favour of the merger – the most recent of which took place in early July. The meetings came in response to Speechly’s failed merger discussions with Withers, which fell flat in 2013 at the partner vote stage (23 May 2013).

Some of the sticking points relating to the merger included both firms’ relatively costly office space, and their incompatible IT systems (29 April 2014). There were also decisions to be made regarding which partners would head the merged firms’ various practice groups.

In 2012/13 Speechly Bircham posted a turnover of £57m – a fall of 1 per cent on its £57.6m the previous year. Net profit increased from £11.3m to £11.6m, while average profit per equity partner (PEP) fell by 2.3 per cent to £293,000 (28 June 2013).

The firm’s revenue has remained relatively flat since 2009/10 when it hit the £58.4m mark. It is yet to disclose its financial results for the 2013/14 year.

Meanwhile, Charles Russell upped its revenue by 7 per cent in 2013/14, rising from £68.9m to £73.4m. The firm is yet to announce its net profit or average profit per equity partner, although it expects (PEP) to rise from £311,000 last year to about £350,000 (7 May 2014).