Simpson Millar turns to Fairpoint for merger after ending Slater & Gordon talks

Leeds-based Simpson Millar has been acquired by AIM listed financial services group Fairpoint Group after shelving discussions with Slater & Gordon in January.

Fairpoint Group said it would pay £9m up-front to acquire the consumer firm with a further £6m in cash shares being handed over when the deal completes in June 2014.

Fairpoint will pay the initial £9m out of its cash reserves and finance facility but is also in discussions to take out a £20m financing facility over five years, to push growth of the firm.

Simpson Millar managing partner Peter Watson said: “This is an investment in growth and a commitment to help us realise our existing long term strategy.”

“With the support of Fairpoint, we are able to expand significantly the numbers of products and services on offer from a portfolio that is already highly complementary. Meanwhile the firm can approach discussions with potential new partners armed with the added incentive that Simpson Millar is now part of a diversified financial and legal services business.”

Simpson Millar’s has 250 employees in 13 offices around the UK and turned over £16.9m in the last financial year. Fairpoint informed the market this morning that the firm had gross assets of £10m at 20 June 2013.

It follows the firm’s transition to an ABS in 2013 and stalled talks with Slater & Gordon, which was poised to acquire it in May 2013 (7 May 2013). In August last year Slater & Gordon said it had put the acquisition on hold, but the discussions were finally called off in January (21 August 2013).

Upon completion of this deal, Simpson Millar will continue to be run by its current management team, using its existing trading brands and operating as a business unit within the Fairpoint Group.

Simpson Millar has made a number of acquisitions in the recent past including education specialist MG Law and family practice McAra’s. It has also bought a number of teams and client portfolios such as the Care Homes division of Barnetts Solicitors in Southport and a substantial volume of work from Lindsay’s in Liverpool.

Chief executive officer of Fairpoint Group Chris Moat said the deal marked its first entry into the legal market. “The proposed acquisition of Simpson Millar presents us with an opportunity to accelerate the diversification of our income streams into the legal services market place, in line with our stated strategy,” he said.

Fairpoint was advised by search agent Jepson Holt and managing director of Manchester-based Zebra Legal Consulting Zoe Holland, who provided Fairpoint with technical legal due diligence.

Simpson Millar was advised by Giles Clegg at Lupton Fawcett Dennison Till and John Beevers at Sagars. Fairpoint was also advised by Eversheds principal associate Alistair Cree, senior associate Ed Bartlett and associate Elizabeth Tindall. Its financial advisers were KPMG.

The deal, which is subject to approval from the SRA, is expected to complete in the first half of 2014.