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Burness Paull draws line under legacy conflict saga as it settles £160m dispute

Scottish independent Burness Paull has reached a confidential settlement in a £160m dispute relating to its legacy business Paull & Williamsons, which came to light in late 2016.

The former chairman and principal shareholder of oil service firm International Tubular Services (ITS), Robert Kidd, filed the claim against Paull & Williamsons alleging it acted for both sides in a private equity investment by Lime Rock into ITS.

Kidd, who left ITS in 2013 citing disagreements with the board, claimed Paull & Williamsons had used another firm – Ledingham Chalmers – as a front for the activity. Burness Paull inherited the potential £160m liability when it acquired the Aberdeen firm in 2012.

Early last year, Edinburgh’s Court of Session found the legacy firm had acted in breach of conflict of interest rules, meaning the case was headed for a full hearing, but this week that court was told the case had been settled.

A Burness Paull spokesperson said: ‘The dispute between Robert Kidd and Paull & Williamsons LLP arising out of historical events which occurred before its merger to form Burness Paull has been resolved between the parties. The terms of the agreement are confidential. No further comment will be made concerning this matter.’

In a judgment delivered in August 2016, Kidd was described as a ‘very successful businessman who grew his enterprises from humble beginnings to a turnover exceeding many millions of pounds. The decision said ‘Kidd is what is commonly referred to as a “wheeler dealer”. He focused on the wider picture leaving the detail and paperwork to others.’

Burness Paull will be relieved to draw a line under an issue that has dogged it for over a year. The firm, which has in recent years been a success story among independent Scottish players, posted flat financials for 2016/17 with turnover up 1% from £53.3m to £53.8m, while profit per equity partner stands at £453,000 compared to £451,000 last year.

Additionally, overall profit was down 2% from £22.5m to £22m in what the firm’s chairman Philip Rodney described a ‘bumpy year for the Scottish economy’.