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Troubled Home Counties firm Winter-Taylors was snapped up last week in a surprise eleventh-hour merger move by neighbouring practice Blaser Mills.
Blaser Mills stepped in with a rescue deal which was accepted by partners of the debt-ridden firm ahead of that from Kidd Rapinet.
The moved shocked Winter-Taylors creditors and partners of Kidd Rapinet who had previously thought theirs was the only rescue package on offer.
Last week, The Lawyer revealed that Winter-Taylors, a big name in family law, had called in insolvency practitioners Levy Gee after amassing debts of £1.2 million.
Kidd Rapinet drew up a set of merger proposals which involved paying £390,000 for the stricken firm and promising to invest a "significant" amount.
However, just days before the meeting of creditors was due to vote on the package, Kidd Rapinet partners were told that Blaser Mills had put in an offer of just under £430,000.
Kidd Rapinet upped its offer to £450,000 at last Thursday's highly-charged creditors' meeting, but Winter-Taylors partners and then the major creditors opted for the rival.
Richard Hulett, Winter-Taylors' finance partner, said: "We gave the matter careful consideration. We had to decide which of the merged firms was likely to be the best fit."
The rival bids were very similar but he said the choice was based on criteria such as workplace culture, the range and location of offices and the expertise of personnel.
George Lewis, senior Kidd Rapinet partner, said: "Bearing in mind the extensive effort made by Kidd Rapinet during the preceding months, and particularly having regard to the fact that we offered a large return to the creditors, I am extremely disappointed."
Hulett said Winter-Taylors would retain its identity following the link-up.