Mourant and Ozannes merge to create third-largest offshore firm

The new firm, which will be called Mourant Ozannes, will have 200 fee-earners including 50 partners and will practise from offices in Guernsey and Jersey as well as London and Cayman Islands.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, will complete on 1 May.

The new partnership will be run by a management committee comprising representatives of both firms. Mourant managing partner Jonathan Rigby (pictured, below) will take on the role of group managing partner, while Ozannes senior partner Peter Ferbrache will keep his title at the new firm. Mourant chairman Ian James will be chairman of Mourant Ozannes.

Discussions between the two firms began in June last year and, according to Rigby, the firms felt the opportunity was “too good to miss”.

“We were very struck by the remarkable similarities between the two firms – the cultures are clearly compatible,” he said. “In contrast to our competitors, who’ve been expanding, over the past 18 months our strategy has been to consolidate in Cayman Islands, Jersey and Guernsey.

“The consolidated firm will support our plans to now grow our firm further afield.”

Ozannes managing partner Rob Shepherd (pictured, above), who will become managing partner of Mourant Ozannes’ Guernsey office, said that Mourant’s focus on its legal rather than fiduciary business was key to the deal.

“The most significant aspect was the absence of any fiduciary business,” he said. “The decision by the firm 18 months ago [to wind down its fiduciary business] meant we were both heading towards the same place.

“We’ve been in Jersey for three years and built it up from one person to 30 people, but pushing it on was always going to be difficult. Merging with Mourant means we can be number one in Jersey and Guernsey and now we have a platform for expanding into Cayman and worldwide.

“It felt absolutely right.”

Mourant, the larger of the two firms, has around 115 fee earners, including 33 partners, spread across four offices in both of the Channel Islands, London and the Cayman Islands.

Ozannes, one of the largest firms in the Channel Islands, has around 92 fee earners including 18 partners across its Guernsey and Jersey offices.

Mourant has spent the last 18 months moving away from financial support services. The firm was a pioneer when it formed Mourant Ltd in 2004, a holding company for the firm and financial administration company Mourant International Finance Administration (Mifa) and private client trust business MourantPrivate Wealth (8 October 2004).

In 2007, the firm’s then chief executive Stephen Ball held ultimately unsuccessful merger talks with fellow offshore firm Walkers (22 October 2007).

Ball left the firm in June 2008 to be replaced by Rigby (6 June 2008). During his tenure as managing partner, Mourant Limited CEO Nicola Palios has driven the divestment of the financial services divisions from the legal sides of the firm (2 February 2009).

As a result, Royal Bank of Canada Wealth acquired Mourant Private Wealth in February 2009 and Boston-based State Street signed an agreement to acquire Mifa in December last year, which is subject to regulatory approval but expected to complete in the first quarter of 2010.