DWF confirms Cobbetts acquisition

National business law firm, DWF, has confirmed that the deal to acquire Cobbetts is now complete, following today's appointment of KPMG as administrators.

Cobbetts filed notice that it intended to appoint KPMG administrators last week following poorer than expected trading in November and December last year, which caused the firm to review its financial position and subsequently obtain an interim statutory moratorium to enable a sale of the business and its assets.

The Cobbetts team comprises a total of 491 people, of which 72 are partners. Based across offices in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London, they will migrate across to existing DWF office space within the next few weeks to support the integration with their respective counterparts. As part of the deal, DWF will honour all training contracts which includes those already in place, as well as those contracts entered into with trainees who are yet to start.

The move excludes Andrew Bennett and his finance litigation team. This is due to the potential commercial conflicts following DWF's recent merger with Fishburns. In an agreed move, the team will join Leeds based firm, Walker Morris.

The acquisition will also not include the Cobbetts' Debt Recovery team, Incasso. However, DWF is supporting those involved including assisting in the day to day management of client affairs for the immediate future, whilst the long term direction of the business can be determined.

"Both firms agreed that this was the best route forward and so the process was a smooth one, with the two parties working towards the same outcome," said Managing Partner and CEO of DWF, Andrew Leaitherland. He continued: "This is the latest milestone in what is already proving to be a positive year for DWF and one that continues along our clearly defined plan of strategic growth. It's crucial that when exploring deals such as these we are certain that the move is the right one, and we're extremely confident that this is the case, with it further reinforcing our sector expertise, business knowledge and our ability to best serve our clients' business interests."

Mark Firmin, Brian Green and Howard Smith of KPMG's restructuring practice are the joint administrators for Cobbetts. Mark Firmin, UK regions head of restructuring at KPMG, said: "In the current economic climate we are delighted to have brokered a deal that saves more than 400 jobs, We have moved swiftly, working in collaboration with a number of stakeholders including the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This is a strong result and an important step forward for DWF in the market."

Deloitte's Manchester office provided tax, accounting, insolvency and strategic advice to DWF on the transaction. The team was led by restructuring services partner Bill Dawson and assistant director Rick Harrison. Bill Dawson said: "This has been a difficult time for Cobbetts, a highly regarded national law firm with a proud history. However, we are pleased to have helped achieve a transaction which gives partners, employees and other stakeholders the best outcome in the circumstances and should help to ensure minimal disruption of service to clients of Cobbetts. We think the quality of partners and people joining DWF will support the firm's growth strategy and help it continue to go from strength to strength."