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Bevan Ashford's Cardiff partners are in the final stages of negotiations for a management buyout (MBO) of the office to save it from closure.
The negotiations follow a review of Bevan Ashford's presence in Cardiff, (The Lawyer, 18 December 2000), which found that the office no longer fits with the firm's overall strategy.
The buyout will mark the end of a nine-year presence in Cardiff for Bevan Ashford. The firm entered the Welsh market in 1993 in the form of a parallel partnership with Edward Lewis & Co. It formally took over the practice in 1995.
Bevan Ashford chief executive Nick Jarrett-Kerr says that since devolution, the Welsh market has become increasingly tough for English firms. He says: "We also feel that as Bevan Ashford grows it can serve a wider geographical area from bigger centres of excellence rather than feeling it has to have an office in every place."
If the MBO is successful, partners Nigel Morgan, Jon Fernandez Lewis and Chris Mayers will rebrand the office as Morgan Lewis Mayers (MLM).
Cardiff managing partner Charles Metherell will return to Bevan Ashford in Bristol with an assistant and trainee, leaving MLM with nine other fee-earners. "Charles Metherall was our gateman and we don't want him to be involved in this [MBO], and he doesn't want to be involved in it either," says Jarret-Kerr.
It is understood that a number of options have been considered, with the impetus for the MBO coming from the Cardiff partners themselves. Closure of the office remains a possibility if the negotiations fail, in which case partners will be given the opportunity to relocate to Bristol. Their areas of expertise cover property, company and commercial, and litigation.
Jarret-Kerr says: "It is an excellent little business, which is why they are attracted to staying with it. We are planning to remain good friends and to do this all amicably and there will be a number of clients that will be shared."
Issues such as severance terms, work in progress and debtors are still under discussion. Morgan says he is hopeful that a deal will be agreed in a matter of weeks.