Clydes takes plunge into merger hotspot Canada

UK firm follows client RSA; DLA Piper to make second attempt

Insurance specialist Clyde & Co is expanding its international footprint through a merger with Canadian insurance firm Nicholl Paskell-Mede, as DLA Piper also eyes a deal in the North American country.

Clydes has been on the hunt for a Canadian merger partner for more than a year. The firm sits on the global panel of insurance giant RSA, which last year entered the Canadian ­insurance market through the £260m acquisition of GCAN Insurance.

Any merger with Nicholl Paskell-Mede will be designed to replicate the deal the firm completed with US insurance boutique Condon & Forsyth in 2006. That move gave the firm a quartet of partners and offices in New York and Los Angeles.

The Canadian tie-up, which is yet to be finalised, is being negotiated by David Angus QC, a Canadian ­senator who chairs a Senate committee on legal affairs. He retired as senior partner of seven sisters firm Stikeman Elliot, where he was a founding partner, in 2009.

Insurance and liability boutique Nicholl Paskell-Mede is home to 15 partners and 38 lawyers. It was launched in 1992 by partners John Nicholl and Mindy Paskell-Mede after they quit Ogilvy Renault, which is set to merge with Norton Rose on 1 June. The tie-up would give Clydes bases in Montreal and Toronto.

Meanwhile, DLA Piper chairman Frank Burch has confirmed that his firm is also in talks over a Canadian tie-up, with frontrunners thought to be Heenan Blaikie and Fraser Milner Casgrain. Both firms have offices in Canada’s lucrative Calgary market.

“We’ve talked to six or seven firms and continue to talk to three or four of the top 10,” said Burch. “There’s now a high level of interest among the top Canadian firms in being an early mover [in terms of tying up with a global player].

“It’s just like everywhere else – when the game of musical chairs starts, you need to find a seat.”

This will be DLA Piper’s second attempt to enter the jurisdiction after its 2008 talks with Fasken ­Martineau came to naught.

Clydes declined to ­comment on any details of the merger. Nicholl Paskell-Mede did not return calls for comment.