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Wragges announces post-merger management line-up but Addleshaws faces scrutiny over leadership team

For Addleshaw Goddard the timing could have been more flattering. On the day that national rival Wragge & Co confirmed a new look management line-up in anticipation of its tie-up with Lawrence Graham (LG) in May, uncomfortable attention has been focused on the leadership of national rival Addleshaws.

In the wake of Wragges’ announcement in December that its £171m merger will go ahead, with Wragge Lawrence Graham expected to edge ahead of Addleshaws in the LB100 top 25 for the first time, the firm today (17 February) confirmed that its five core practice group heads have now been decided, all who will sit on the management board, with four of the appointments coming from Wragges and one from LG.

Wragges; current head of residential development Richard Bate will head real estate in the merged firm, and current dispute resolution head Davinia Gransbury will retain her role.

Wragges’ pensions partner Jason Coates will lead the new combined and renamed human resources team, while current group leader for corporate, commercial, finance and projects Michael Luckman will head the new abridged commercial and projects group.

LG managing partner Hugh Maule will assume the role of group head of corporate, finance and private capital.

All five practice heads will sit on the board alongside Wragges’ managing partner elect David Fennell (whose title will change to chief executive of the combined firm); current Wragges senior partner Quentin Poole, who will stay in that role, and LG senior partner Andrew Witts, who will become chairman.

Two non-executive directors complete the new board line-up, with former president and chief operating officer for global businesses at Thomson Reuters, Helen Owers appointed alongside KPMG’s Alastair McLeish, who most recently held the role of UK head of tax and pensions and head of KPMG ELLP’s tax practice.

The board will run a firm of 1,300 staff including 770 lawyers, operating out of 10 offices, after a majority vote of more than 75% from both partnerships secured the deal.

In comparison, Addleshaws’ current prospects look more mixed. While Wragges and Addleshaws often been compared to each other as arguably the two most high quality institutional firms bred in the UK regions, Addleshaws has struggled for growth since the boom.

On current trends, WLG looks set to this year push past its old rival in revenue terms.

Addleshaws saw its revenue drop by 15% between 2008 and 2013, one of the worst performances in the LB 100, and Addleshaws looks set to face another a contested election when current managing partner Paul Devitt’s second term comes to an end in April 2015.

While the firm refused to comment on claims by former lawyers that real estate head Adrian Collins and business support and restructuring head John Joyce have put themselves forward for the managing partner role, the firm is set to see an election this autumn. This comes amid a period in which there have been questions asked over the firm’s progress.

Addleshaws latest limited liability partnership results filed by the firm revealed that its bank borrowing increased by £4m as 2012/13 audited revenue at the firm fell 2.4% from £168m to £164m.