Argles takes pole position as First Choice employment firm

South East firm Argles Stoneham Burstows has strengthened its relationship with FTSE 250 holiday company First Choice by gaining an enhanced role as employment law adviser.

Previously, Hammond Suddards Edge advised First Choice on employment issues. Hammonds will continue to advise on Manchester-generated employment work but Argles will provide employment advice for the Gatwick business, which generates slightly more employment work.

The shift coincides with Andrew John’s appointment as First Choice’s director of legal affairs and company secretary, following the departure of Rebecca Starling.

John was previously legal director at Vickers Defence Systems, which was taken over by Rolls Royce in 1999. He took an interim role at First Choice in Crawley in December 2000 when Starling went on maternity leave. He was appointed to the executive committee on 1 April.

John says: “We’ve been using Argles more in relation to employment matters. It’s an area in which it has a lot of expertise and it is local to us in Crawley. It is also experienced in airline and aviation matters.

“Hammonds still has a relationship with us, working on matters relating to the business in Manchester.

“In an industry such as this, employment is always going to be an important issue. Argles was being used at First Choice before I arrived, but our contact with it has increased. That has been a conscious decision.

“When it comes to major corporate transactions we will be looking to Herbert Smith. Outside that we are looking for the best people for the job, but also maintaining relationships which are useful both for the law firm and for ourselves.”

Argles’ head of employment Rebecca Thornley-Gibson says that the relationship was cemented when the firm advised First Choice on its £5.9m acquisition of holiday business Virgin Sun, its biggest corporate deal for the tour operator to date.

Thornley-Gibson says: “We’d done some work in connection with our corporate commercial department. When it had various matters on, we’d do the due diligence on employment.”

Head of commercial Caroline Armitage led the team on the Virgin Sun acquisition, supported by aviation specialist Mike Butler, employment lawyer Alison Russell, and corporate assistant Sam Clark.

Armitage says: “For proximity, First Choice was looking for someone local, and this, together with our aviation law expertise and competitive fees, was the major reason for our selection.”

First Choice will take over the acquired part of Virgin Sun’s business in November. Herbert Smith continues to act as the main company and commercial adviser.