‘It wasn’t our fault’

Off-the-record war of words breaks out over failed LG-FFW merger talks

The fallout from the failed merger talks between Lawrence Graham (LG) and Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) has sources on both sides at odds over the reasons why discussions collapsed.
One ex-FFW lawyer claimed that a number of partners at the firm would “never allow” a merger and talks were doomed from the start.

After more than six months of discussions, a potential £150m tie-up was called off last month, with both managing partners, FFW’s Matthew Lohn and LG’s Hugh Maule, giving amicable and mutually respectful statements.

However, one FFW source alleges that concern from financiers and external accountants over LG’s figures – particularly “property issues” around its More London offices – made a deal impossible.

The source said: “The view of many partners was that while the LG practice had one or two centres of excellence that would have been a good addition, the figures made the deal unattractive. Corporate financiers and external accountants felt unable to recommend the deal.”

But LG is adamant it was the internal struggle within FFW that scuppered the merger. One source said it was LG that terminated talks because FFW “would not and could not deliver a vote on it”.

They said any references to LG’s financials were “absolute nonsense” and deflected from the real reasons, adding: “If you don’t want a merger you can always find a reason why.”
The end of the talks, which would have pushed a combined firm of 1,000 people to the brink of the UK top 20 in terms of revenue, is understood to have disappointed some departments within FFW, particularly real estate and AIM.

A tie-up would have seen them compete in some areas with the strongest practices in the City.

Although Lohn, who is driving ambitious growth plans, said a “merger is still an option”, some sources believe it is not realistic in what they see as a divided firm.

Another FFW source, however, claimed that perception is outdated and FFW is “more together” as a result of the failed merger talks.

Both firms have previously kept their counsel on the reasons behind the talks ending. Now they are in open conflict.