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Gateley IPO pioneer Ward to stand down as chief executive

The man who led Gateley in its pioneering move to become the first UK law firm to float on the public markets is to step down as chief executive next year.

Michael Ward, who has spent over thirty years at Gateley, will be succeeded by the firm’s Manchester office head and leader of its national property team, Rod Waldie, from 1 May 2020. Ward will remain on the board of directors and lead Gateley’s non-legal businesses.

‘When we did the listing I agreed to do five years,’ Ward told Legal Business. ‘That time will be up in 2020, so it’s about being consistent.’

Gateley said its board believed an internal appointment and near year-long succession plan would enable the business to preserve its growth and culture. In May, the company said its revenue for the 2018/19 financial year, due to be announced next week, would be no less than £102m: up an impressive 67% from when it listed in 2015.

Despite standing down as chief executive, Ward will remain a significant shareholder in the firm, currently owning approximately two million shares, and hopes to use his experience to bolster the Gateley’s non-legal arm in his new remit.

‘We want to make non-legal about 20% of the business with legal making up the remaining 80%,’ Ward added. ‘It won’t be a new emphasis but it will be a greater emphasis, and I’m actually really looking forward to that role.’

Chief executive in waiting Waldie joined Gateley in 2010 following the firm’s acquisition of the Manchester office of Halliwells. He has been involved with the integration of Gateley’s post-IPO acquisitions, including Gateley Capitus, Gateley Hamer, and GCL Solicitors, and will shadow Ward until his official appointment next year. As leader of the property team, Waldie currently oversees a vital component of Gateley’s business, something Ward believes increases his suitability for the top position:

‘He’s been on the board since 2010; he is the head of property which makes up about 40% of our business and he’s a thoroughly nice and competent bloke.’