DWS pulls plug on Gibraltar operation

Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) is withdrawing from Gibraltar following the sale of its legal business and the continuing negotiations to sell its company administration firm.

DWS sold its legal division to local firm Triay Stagnetto Neish last week (31 January). The team includes partner Brendan Murphy.

DWS is still in negotiations to sell its trust company business Steadfast Trustees.

Chief executive Howard Morris told The Lawyer: “Strategically, the Gibraltar office is very different to what we do at the rest of the firm, and the decision was taken some time ago to sell the business.” He declined to reveal the purchase price.

Transaction conflicts have also been cited by partners at DWS as a reason for the sale, with Steadfast’s activities presenting a barrier to certain deals, particularly in Russia.

DWS’s financial performance is sure to be boosted by the sale, but according to former partners, Gibraltar always produced a strong profit.

DWS has sought to streamline itself in recent years in an effort to get a grip on its financial situation, which for 2004-05 saw profit per equity partner fall to £279,000.

In 2004, the Asian network was axed, while the firm has finally rented out its office in Chancery Lane to Lewis Silken.

The legacy Denton Hall inherited the Gibraltar office in 1998 when it acquired the 42-lawyer Middle East practice of Fox & Gibbons. It was one of six offices the firm took on, including Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Dubai, Istanbul and Oman.