11 March 2002
February 2002 saw the completion of Salter Group's £18m management buyout from its US-based parent Weigh-Tronix. Two-year-old Marlow firm Moorcrofts acted for Salter's management on the equity documents, beating leading City firms to the deal.
Salter chief executive officer Roger Evans says: "We wanted a growing company hungry to prove itself rather than riding on past reputation. [Moorcrofts] showed considerable empathy with the stresses encountered in the buyout and led us through the process in a professional and timely manner."
Salter was funded by Barclays Private Equity, which instructed Olswang. Evans will assess the potential for further work with Moorcrofts as the new company progresses.
The firm was established by Adrian Phillips in January 2000 following new revelations about the direction of his life. "Quite a few of my clients had urged me to set up on my own," he reveals. "Once you've made up your mind - shall I or shan't I? - it becomes fun. The difficult bit is crossing that mental Rubicon."
The firm has just two partners and four lawyers practising corporate, IT, employment and share schemes. "A clean piece of paper was a great chance not to do criminal, probate, litigation or property," says Phillips.
With around 30 per cent of the existing client base coming with Phillips, he says the toughest part of the startup was the practicality of organising an office. "I certainly found the first three months the most stressful," he says.
The firm's projected turnover for the year ending March is £1m. Phillips says: "In the current climate, we're looking for steady growth, not spectacular growth. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. When you start in 2000 at the tail-end of a boom, you have one view. When the economy tightens up, you have another. Goals may take longer to realise."
Phillips, who is the former managing partner of Garretts in Reading, wants to keep the firm small; the ultimate objective is to grow to 25 lawyers. "We've rejected departmental head-itis. We want to keep a very flat management structure," he says. "We're keen for people to be free to work from home and have a dress-down culture five days a week. And everything's done by email. We only send out one or two letters a day."
Moorcrofts is probably well placed to take advantage of any gap between West London and east of Reading. Targeted on corporate, Phillips feels that the firm is unique in its location. "We're not low-balling. We keep repeating the message of the service we can provide," he says. "We completed an enterprise management incentive scheme for RDF Media Holdings in December 2001." This followed work advising the shareholders of RDF on the investment by Sagitta European Private Equity Partners II.
Moorcrofts implemented a knowledge management system in October 2001, developed by partner Andrew Katz. "It's easily accessible; you can search all our precedents and client files by typing in key words," says Phillips.
Other clients include Air Excellence International and Greenshields JCB.