Private equity house takes stake in insurance firm Parabis

Acquisition-hungry firm Parabis Group is to take a cash injection from private equity house Duke Street.

The insurance claims company is parent company to defendant firm Plexus Law and claimant group Cogent Law. Parabis has long held ambitions to convert to an alternative business structure (14 April 2011) and has spent the last decade building a suite of services around the insurance claims market.

Duke Street said it had held an “active interest” in investing in legal services since the Legal Services Act was first mooted in 2006.

The size of the investment is unknown, as is the anticipated return on any deal. Duke Street said the deal values Parabis between £150m and £200m. At the end of the current financial year the group is expected to generate revenues of £160m.

Duke Street partner Iain Kennedy said: “The intention is to support management with Duke Street’s operational expertise in transforming the business from a professional services firm to a business process outsourcer, and to drive the continued consolidation of the legal services industry via Duke Street’s successful buy-and-build model.”

The Parabis management team, led by chief executive Tim Oliver and commercial director Tim Roberts, will remain with the business and continue to be significant shareholders. 

Duke Street operating partners Paul Lester, former chief executive of VT Group, and Bob Scott, former group CEO of Aviva, will join the Parabis board as non-executive directors. Lester will become chairman of Parabis on completion.

The firm made its debut in The Lawyer UK 200 in 2011, unveiling revenues of £100m with an estimated net profit of £12.5m. This came 10 years after its launch in 2000 as Rymills Law, a road traffic accident claims handling firm, with former Berrymans Lace Mawer partner Tim Oliver at the helm

Plexus was established through the acquisition of Williams Davies Meltzer (12 November 2001). Around the same time claimant firm Cogent was launched, absorbing the claimant work belonging to Rymills.

The operating partnership of Parabis was set up in 2002, when it effectively became a parent group overarching several legal and non-legal brands.

Initially its focus was outside the law and Parabis took in two rehabilitation providers, Human Focus Return to Work and RTW Plus.

In 2007, following the introduction of the Legal Services Bill, Parabis switched its attention back to the law – first absorbing Colchester-based Gaston Whybrew Law (19 January 2007) before expanding into the North through the takeover of the defendant arm of Cheshire firm Bott & Co (22 January 2007).

In 2009 Parabis Law became the parent group of defendant firm Plexus and claimant firm Cogent, while Parabis Ltd became an outsourced claims management group and consultancy and Argent was established as the parent of the group’s professional services firms, which include loss adjustors.

Last year the firm appointed Plexus Law former AIG in-house counsel Darren Hanison to lead the reinsurance practice. Formerly Hanison, a UK-qualified lawyer, was based in New York, where he was AIG’s assistant general counsel for international property and casualty reinsurance.