Buchanans ditches PFI team in strategy U-turn

Short-lived practice fails; founding London partner Francis told to quit; firm to refocus on consultancy

US firm Buchanan Ingersoll is forgoing its high-profile London projects and PFI practice, which it launched just 18 months ago.
The office’s managing partner Barry Francis and two other partners will leave in the summer, following the firm’s decision last week.
Francis joined Pittsburgh-based Buchanans from Beachcroft Wansbroughs at the beginning of last year, along with a team of five other partners doing projects and PFI work. His healthcare-based practice was one of Beachcrofts’ strongest, and it was thought at the time that it would fit well with Buchanans’ non-legal healthcare consultancy in London, which advises healthcare providers on management issues.
But the chairman of the firm’s management committee Thomas VanKirk said that is no longer the case. “This has been a mutual decision, not a US decision,” he stated. “We’ve decided that we need to focus our activities in the UK on the consulting practice and the various other practices that we’ve been adding, such as corporate, IT and insurance.
“Really, the office was launched with the concept of consultancy, and what might develop from consultancy, and the need for legal work coming out of that. The legal work coming out of it is much more in the area of a general corporate type of work rather than the projects.”
The five other partners who joined with Francis were fellow equity partners Lawrence Bruce and Peter Brazel, and salaried partners Diane Wilson, Michael Park and David Hartley. Bruce left Buchanans in May to join Field Fisher Waterhouse.
Francis refused to name the two other partners who will be leaving the firm or to comment on the size of the rest of the team, but said that the two partners in his team who will stay now do more than just projects and PFI.
Buchanans had an innovative partner-sharing scheme with Beachcrofts, in which the two firms agreed to work together on projects. They still have one project ongoing.
Francis said: “At the moment, we’re looking at opportunities to see what’s there in the market. There may be a team move, there may be a core move, it’s too early at this stage to identify exactly what will happen. We’re going to achieve the exit in a managed way and in an orderly fashion.”
He said he thought the exit would be resolved by summer or early autumn and that he did not believe the problem was doing the work from a US firm.
“We’ll be looking for a firm where one of its main objectives is to do and develop the type of work that I do,” he said. “It’s really a question of focus – we want a firm which includes as one of its focuses the public-private partnerships and major projects that I do.
“It’s not to do with a US firm, it’s more about size and local resources.”