Midlands firm Knights gets SRA backing for Dragons’ Den investment

Midlands firm Knights Solicitors has been granted SRA approval for its capital injection from Dragons’ Den star James Caan.


James Caan
James Caan

The firm, which in June revealed the deal with Caan’s private equity vehicle Hamilton Bradshaw (12 June 2012), received notification of the approval this week. It will convert to an ABS on 1 January 2013.

Knights managing partner David Beech said the approval represents “an important step in achieving the firm’s significant ambitions”.

Once the new structure becomes effective all management decisions will be taken by Beech, with oversight from a board made up of him, Caan and Hamilton Bradshaw finance director Andy Sumner.

Earlier in the year Caan told The Lawyer that he was attracted to the legal sector because its financial dynamics are similar to that of the recruitment sector, in which he has 25 years of experience (9 July 2012).

According to Beech, the fact that Knights is a relatively small firm, with seven equity partners and turnover of around £10m, was key for getting the deal through.

“The firm wasn’t thriving in the partnership model and the partners saw the need for capital,” he said. “They also saw a changing environment, which created concerns about staying the same.”

Having previously run North West firm Heatons, Beech is also familiar with the private equity model, both as a legal adviser and an investor. While at Heatons he broke Allen & Overy’s exclusive relationship with now-defunct Icelandic investment group Baugur, advising it on a string of multi-million-pound deals such as the £110m acquisition of UK retailer Goldsmiths (17 May 2004) and £152m buy-out of high street clothing chain Oasis (24 November 2003).

He also raised and managed a private equity fund, having left Heatons in 2005 to join private equity house Arev, where he managed a fund alongside former Baugur international operations chief Jon Scheving Thorsteinsson and former KPMG partner Andrew Manders (10 March 2005).

“I previously managed a law firm and a private equity fund,” said Beech. “The thought of bringing the two together was exciting.”