Bradford’s Gordons takes over Leeds firm Nelsons

Gordons, the tiny Bradford firm that recently fought for Wm Morrison Supermarkets on its £2.9bn takeover of Safeway, has completed its own major acquisition by taking on Leeds practice Nelson & Co.

As first revealed on (27 April), the combined firm, which will be known as Gordons, will have a total turnover of £15m and will house 40 partners and 300 staff. Before the merger, Gordons had 25 partners and Nelsons 14.

Under the terms of the merger, Paul Ayre, Gordons commercial property partner and a member of the firm’s three-partner executive board, became the managing partner of the new entity after the deal went live on 1 May.

Meanwhile, Gordons’ current managing partner John Hall is continuing his role, and Andrew Linden, the current managing partner of Nelsons, has been appointed as chair of the firm’s executive board.

Commenting on the merger, Ayre said: “Everyone had an idea on how to grow the business. We weren’t afraid to have a go because we thought there was a market opportunity that we could exploit by joining with Nelson & Co.”

Besides Morrisons, Gordons also counts retailer Lidl, Coors Brewers, Peter Black Holdings and a number of high net-worth individuals as clients.

Meanwhile, Nelsons is one of the Law Society’s recognised firms on regulatory issues. Its other clients include Allianz Cornhill, Sterling Capitol and Gregory Properties.


Until Wm Morrison retained its long-term adviser Gordons to act on the Safeway takeover, very little was known of the firm outside Yorkshire. Since then, Gordons’ reputation as a no-nonsense commercial law firm has spread beyond the county.

Gordons has also been on an acquisitive rampage since the turn of the century. In 2000, it merged with Leeds firm Cranswick Watson to form Gordons Cranswick, gaining a Leeds office in the process. Another merger with Bradford’s Sugden Spencer in November 2002 boosted the partnership to 34.

Gordons has also made some high-profile lateral hires, including: partners Peter Barton, David Smyllie and Rupert Levin, all from DLA; private client partner Rachel Tunnicliffe from Addleshaw Goddard; and litigation partner Matthew Howarth from Burges Salmon.