A team from Olswang lead by M&A partner Mark Bertram has acted on the £87m buyout of personal finance journalist Martin Lewis’s MoneySavingExpert.com.
Price comparison website MoneySupermarket, which was advised by Herbert Smith corporate partner Chris Haynes, will pay Lewis £60m upfront in a mixture of cash and shares and a further £27m conditional on meeting targets over the next three years.
Bertram and his colleagues – IP partner Stephen Reese, corporate associate Hannah Farrington, partner Louis Glass, associate Gordon Ker and junior Jack Gilbert – put the best part of 12 months work into the deal.
Consumer champion Lewis set up the site in 2003 and has built up a huge following including five million subscribers to the weekly email.
Bertram said: “He’s such an interesting and high-profile individual and this has been a fascinating deal to work on.
“There have been a lot of IP aspects to it because Martin was adamant on maintaining the independence of the site. So we’ve spent several months enshrining in documentation a mechanism around editorial independence.”
Bertram said that because of the size of the transaction it will need shareholder approval at a meeting in July. Key issues for the deal to go through are locking in Lewis and the transition and incentivisation of the team behind the MoneySavingExpert.
It is also dependent on approval from the competition authorities.
Bertram added: “This is a sizeable valuation for a company which employs just 40 people and was set up from home almost as a hobby to give friends his advice, but it has grown very fast and successfully.
“It’s a real testament to entrepreneurial verve. The combination of being financially and commercially astute with a journalist’s flair is an extraordinarily powerful one.
“People have a sense of ownership around Martin’s site, it is very personal. What he was absolutely adamant about was that sense was not lost. That was primary condition to making this deal happen, needing to trust MoneySupermarket.”
Lewis plans to donate £10m to charity from the deal, including £1m to Citizens Advice.
MoneySavingExpert makes money by product providers paying for click throughs from its website. MoneySupermarket represents between 50 to 60 per cent of its revenues.