Legal Business Blogs

Not everyone is getting hitched – Kennedys and Simpson & Marwick call off agreed merger

Getting a legal merger over the line is notoriously difficult but once the tie-up is agreed it usually goes through, happily or not. One rare exception to that rule has emerged today (11 December) with the announcement that the 153-partner Kennedys has abandoned its agreed takeover of Scots practice Simpson & Marwick.

The deal comes after 18 months of negotiations and a formal announcement of the union in the summer.

The tie-up would have created a £160m practice with strong national coverage in insurance. Today’s announcement cited ‘complex reasons’ as to why the deal had been abandoned.

The combination had originally been scheduled to go live on 1 November but the launch deadline was put back due to integration challenges. The joint statement said: ‘Further to our announcement on 30 August 2013, Kennedys and Simpson & Marwick advise that the two firms no longer intend to merge. Both firms and their partners hold each other in the highest regard and are very disappointed that for complex reasons the merger could not be finalised.

‘Clients and their interests are our priority. There are a number of cross-border clients that Kennedys and Simpson & Marwick plan to continue working closely with in order to provide a UK-wide service.’

Insurance specialist Kennedys was the latest in a line of large English law firms conducting excursions north of the border. This pairing would have created a 220-partner firm and was billed as the most significant Anglo-Scottish tie-up since McGrigors was acquired by Pinsent Masons in 2012.

Simpson & Marwick, which has offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Newcastle, North Berwick and London, would have substantially raised Kennedys’ income as senior partner Nick Thomas said that the combined firm would have projected revenues of £160m.

It follows a similar move by Kennedys’ insurance rival DAC Beachcroft via its union with Scots insurance litigation boutique Andersens, which went live in September 2012.

Despite the failure of the talks, the last two years has been a period of sustained consolidation in the national legal market, with Wragge & Co and Lawrence Graham today confirming that they have agreed a merger to go live from May 2014.