Legal Business

Ince in firing line over ‘inappropriate’ restaurant behaviour allegations

Ince in firing line over ‘inappropriate’ restaurant behaviour allegations

Ince has launched a formal internal investigation after a viral tweet from a Cardiff restaurant owner claimed a group of its lawyers had behaved inappropriately towards a waitress.

In the social media post, which as of today (9 May) has been ‘liked’ close to 132,000 times, Cora owner Lee Skeet alleged in an email that the group had ‘talked down to, disrespected, and touched unwantedly’ a 22-year-old waitress named Lily.

Skeet went on to offer the party a refund, writing: ‘I would thank you to never come back to my restaurant. Lily means a lot more to me than money. I also think you should assess the people you surround yourself with.’

The email (sent on 4 May) was addressed to Ince’s head of finance, John Biles. However Legal Business understands that it was the behaviour of Biles’ guests at the table, rather than his own, that was being questioned.

The next day (5 May), an internal Ince memo announced that Biles, 82, will be retiring from the firm over a four-month transition period – but Ince claims this announcement was pre-planned and unrelated to the incident.

A spokesperson for Ince said: ‘The company has been made aware of allegations in the media in relation to senior staff attending a dinner on Wednesday evening. The independent directors have therefore initiated a formal investigation. Whilst it is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.’

The news would have pricked the ears of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which will be awaiting the outcome of Ince’s internal probe. The investigation will be conducted by the aforementioned ‘independent directors’ though Ince did not disclose any specific names.

If any Ince solicitors are found to have been in breach of the SRA’s Principles, the firm would be expected to self-report any wrongdoing.

Most potentially relevant would be principal 2, to act: ‘…in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons.’

Rule 3.9 of the SRA’s Code of Conduct for firms states: ‘You report promptly to the SRA, or another approved regulator, as appropriate, any facts or matters that you reasonably believe are capable of amounting to a serious breach of their regulatory arrangements by any person regulated by them (including you) of which you are aware. If requested to do so by the SRA, you investigate whether there have been any serious breaches that should be reported to the SRA.’

Legal Business

Revenues soar at Ince but stop just shy of £100m target after tumultuous year

Revenues soar at Ince but stop just shy of £100m target after tumultuous year

Listed law firm Ince Group, which previously operated as Gordon Dadds, has produced impressive double-digit revenue growth in its first full financial year since the acquisition of shipping specialist Ince & Co. 

Revenues soared an impressive 87% to £98.5m, narrowly missing the £100m target set by Ince Group CEO Adrian Biles last November, while operating profit rose a hefty 72% to £26.2m from £15.2m last year. However, Ince’s organic growth produced a more muted 5% growth, according to the firm’s announcement on the London Stock Exchange. Moreover, in the first quarter of the current financial year, the firm confirmed revenues were down 10% due to the economic impact of Covid-19. Geographically, the UK remained the primary source of the firm’s revenues, producing £63.9m, while China produced £19.6m and Dubai’s output stood at £4.9m.  

Commenting on the results, Biles (pictured) said: ‘We can justifiably claim that this has been a year of great progress.  While we narrowly missed our £100m revenue target, the fact that these results were achieved despite the disruption caused by Covid-19 shows the quality of the business we are building.’ 

The announcement from the group was followed by a modest 4% drop in share price, which sat at 27.3p as of this morning (3 August). In January of this year, Ince endured an almost 50% drop in share price, from 89p to 45p, after calling for an additional £16m in finance to reload its balance sheet following the acquisition of Ince & Co in 2018 

Meanwhile, in March, Ince cancelled its interim dividend of 2p a share, worth around £1.4m, after the board concluded it was no longer confident of delivering results in line with expectations for both the six months and year to 31 March 2020. It also cited the inevitable impact on cash flows and uncertainty around the collection of fees as a result of the pandemic. In its latest financial announcement, Ince also confirmed borrowing had increased from £2.9m to £9m, on top of £14m raised in equity capital earlier in the year. 

Legal Business

Listed firms suffer Covid-19 fallout as Knights staff face sweeping cuts and Ince cancels dividend

Listed firms suffer Covid-19 fallout as Knights staff face sweeping cuts and Ince cancels dividend

Knights board members and staff earning more than £30,000 face pay cuts of at least 10% and some staff will be made redundant, while Ince has followed Gateley in slashing its interim dividend due to the impact of coronavirus.

The listed law firms today (26 March) provided trading updates to the London Stock Exchange, citing increased economic uncertainty brought by the Covid-19 pandemic and responding with measures ranging from pay cuts and redundancies to dividend cancellations and warnings around collecting fees.

Knights struck a relatively bullish tone in terms of the limited impact the firm says it has seen on its revenue and cash flows to date, but nevertheless introduced a raft of cost saving measures given the uncertain outlook.

These include reducing board members’ salaries by 30% and the salaries of staff earning £30,000 or more by 10% from 1 April, taking a ‘more prudent approach to resourcing’ that will involve some redundancies, halting non-essential capital expenditure and eliminating all discretionary spend, including marketing. The firm is in consultation on potential redundancies and declined to comment on how many staff could be affected.

Knights chief executive David Beech commented: ‘While we have traded in line with market expectations to date, we have decided to take a number of precautionary measures in response to the anticipated economic impact from the spread of the virus, to ensure maximum flexibility to respond to the changing market environment. The business is in a strong financial position and I am confident that the group’s strategy, supported by a talented team, will see Knights emerge from the near-term uncertainties in a strong position.’

Meanwhile, fellow listed firm Ince – formerly known as Gordon Dadds – has cancelled its interim dividend of 2p a share, worth around £1.4m, after the board concluded it was no longer confident of delivering results in line with expectations for both the six months and year to 31 March 2020. The board also cited the inevitable impact on cash flows and uncertainty around the collection of fees as a result of the pandemic.

Chief executive Adrian Biles commented: ‘These are unprecedented and challenging times and the welfare of our clients, staff and partners is paramount. We are doing everything we can to ensure that when the pandemic eases we will be well placed to move forward with our growth strategy. The underlying business of the group is robust and will survive the current turbulence.’

Legal Business

Ince stock plummets as firm seeks £16m from shareholders

Ince stock plummets as firm seeks £16m from shareholders

Shares in listed law firm Ince Group fell drastically today (15 January) after the company called for an additional £16m in finance to reload its balance sheet following Gordon Dadds’ acquisition of the firm in 2018.

The placing saw shares fall almost 50% to 45p from 89p, before rising slightly to 47p. Ince sought the accelerated book build to ‘continue with its programme of partner recruitment, especially in the overseas offices to bolster and enhance their existing practices.’

Hours later the firm completed a £12m raise through the placing of approximately 27m shares, with existing and new institutional shareholders taking part. A further £4m is proposed through offers to qualifying shareholders and staff members.

Ince CEO Adrian Biles (pictured) commented: ‘This marks the completion of the Ince merger. The Ince transaction was in two parts: the UK business was acquired in December 2018; and the overseas offices joined the group in April 2019. The closer overseas integration has completed the establishment of the platform as an international brand, with a world class offering.’

Biles stressed that though the support of existing and new institutional shareholders was welcome, it came at ‘a significant discount to the market price of the company’s shares, which is an unfortunate feature of the current market conditions.’

The fundraise comes after a similar placing in January of last year, when Ince raised £10m. Similarly, shares plunged 25% from 189p to 142.5p. Later, in March, it was revealed that partners at legacy-Ince & Co ruled out a £8.5m capital injection which may have saved the beleaguered firm, according to a report from administrators Quantuma. The report went on to add that, had Ince not pursued its tie-up with Gordon Dadds, its situation would have become ‘unmanageable’.

The completion of the fundraising is conditional upon shareholder approval at a general meeting of the company, which is expected to be held on 3 February, with some of the money expected to be spent on partially reducing debts.

Legal Business

Hong Kong drives H1 revenue at Ince by 125% following key partner hires amid expansive year

Hong Kong drives H1 revenue at Ince by 125% following key partner hires amid expansive year

Following the full integration of its consolidated businesses in the UK and China, Ince today (28 November) published revenues of £45.3m for the first half of 2019/2020 financial year, a 125% hike from 2018. Profit increased by 264% from £1.1m to £4m, while the firm also reported a net debt of £10.4m, an increase of £7.3m due to the working capital invested in lateral hires and the cost of integrating the businesses.

Group chief executive Adrian Biles told Legal Business: ‘The key growth areas include Hong Kong, where we have effectively doubled the size of our business in the period where we’ve had control.’

Between April and May this year Ince – which previously operated as Gordon Dadds before the takeover of Ince & Co over a year ago – hired corporate partner Eric Lui and commercial disputes partners Alfred Lau and Ian Lo as well as over 20 staff in Hong Kong.

The business operates out of 23 offices in eight countries and will focus on expanding in jurisdictions it already has a presence, aiming to ‘replace capacity in Ince’s traditional sectors where needed and also broaden the offering of each office’. Ince has offices in Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, the UAE, Singapore and China and has plans to hire in Singapore and Dubai.

‘The plan is to look at all the areas and jurisdictions where we operate and to increase the range of services which are offered to our clients in those jurisdictions,’ added Biles (pictured). ‘We are fortunate in having some significant lateral hires joining us. We’ve got people joining from Singapore from peer group businesses. The object of the exercise generally being to increase revenue in each jurisdiction.’

The firm recently hired Mark Tantam as global head of consulting. Tantam was previously vice-chair of Deloitte and has 20 years of professional services experience. He will provide his services through the recently acquired Mahtcorp1.

Biles said: ‘He brings with him not only a very clear vision of how a large international professional services business can operate but also a wealth of experience in forensics, regulation, remediation and excellent client relationships in key areas which we operate in like regulatory consulting.’

Other senior appointments include former global head of shipping at Hill Dickinson, Julian Clark, appointed as senior partner in September and current European managing partner of Orrick, Alexander Janes, who will join the firm as head of Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The listed entity has continued to show positive results, despite scepticism over how successful and stable the listed legal model is.

‘The question is, who is an appropriate firm to list?’ Biles commented. ‘Firms that want to list have got to have their own profile and the right reasons for wanting to list. I’m sure people are looking for the ability to finance their business and enhance its growth. For a private company to transition to a public company can be quite a cultural shift. Looking at the results that have been announced by most of the listed firms, they’ve all been very positive and one hopes that the model is working and investors are becoming more comfortable with it.’

For more on Ince, see ‘LB100 case study: Ince’


Legal Business

Case study: Ince

Case study: Ince

What a difference a year makes. After an initial public offering, a series of acquisitions – including City institution Ince & Co in October 2018 – and a share price drop earlier this year, Ince Group plc, which previously operated as Gordon Dadds, moves up 23 places in the Legal Business 100 2018/19 following a 69% boost in revenue from £31.2m to £52.6m.

The listed firm added £21.4m to its top line through five acquisitions in 2017 and 2018. The group reported a 73% profit increase from £8.8m to £15.2m, while earnings per share surged by 79% and dividend per share increased by 50%. However, the group reported a £14.3m non-recurring acquisition cost and a debt reduction of £5.5m, bringing the actual figure down to £2.9m.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Ince appoints London managing partner duo as City players hire globally

Revolving doors: Ince appoints London managing partner duo as City players hire globally

After an eventful few months following its acquisition by Gordon Dadds, Ince has put down some roots with the appointment of Nick Goldstone and Michael Volikas as joint managing partners of the London office.

The move came after Gordon Dadds last month posted a 69% revenue hike from to £52.6m and a 73% rise in profit to £15.2m on the back of its £43m acquisition of Ince.

Ince’s former head of dispute resolution, Goldstone specialises in media-related disputes, reputation management and human rights. Volikas was previously global managing partner for the Ince & Co shipping group where he acted mainly on dispute resolution matters.

Goldstone told Legal Business: ‘We intend to be one of the go-to firms, not just for law, but for professional advice. We think we offer a fairly unique offering and intend to keep growing our sectors.’

He said he intends to move the firm forward and work through all the opportunities that have been created by last year’s merger. The firm aims to build out its core areas of strength in shipping, energy and insurance as well as its corporate, commercial and property sectors.

Goldstone is confident the current political and economic climate will bring in more work. ‘So far as the Strait of Hormuz is concerned and the trade war that’s potentially building up between the United States, China and the sanction issues with Iran – these create problems and opportunities. We are well-equipped to help our existing client base and new clients deal with these issues.’ Goldstone said.

Adrian Biles, the chief executive of both Ince and Gordon Dadds, will focus on the firm’s international outlook.

Meanwhile in Frankfurt, DLA Piper bolstered its tax practice with the hire of Ulf Andresen from PwC where he headed the Frankfurt transfer pricing group and the German financial services transfer pricing group.

Andresen has experience in structuring and implementing cross-border activities, evaluating tax accounting impact and defending these structures in audits. The move is part of DLA’s plan to expand its capabilities in transfer pricing, an area of law which is becoming increasingly important due to changes in the international tax landscape.

Co-managing partner Konrad Rohde told Legal Business: ‘We have a transfer pricing practice already in the UK and China. We’re very strong in terms of transfer pricing in the US and we also have capabilities in Italy. We have a lot of clients that do international reorganisations and transfer pricing is a huge driver for that. We also see a lot of opportunities to interface with other areas we practice in, in particular intellectual property, corporate and also white collar crime.’

‘We think that it will help us grow the practice but also give us an edge in comparison to other firms. If you look at law firms in Germany, very few typically cover transfer pricing. This will really give us a good footprint in the German legal market’ Rohde added.

Elsewhere, in Hong Kong, Allen & Overy appointed restructuring lawyer Ian Chapman to the partnership and its Asia Pa00cific restructuring and recovery group. Chapman has over 30 years of experience advising publicly-owned and private companies on complex and high profile restructurings and insolvencies in Asia.

Meanwhile, Burness Paull, has enhanced its tech sector capabilities with the hire of IP, commercial and competition partner Colin Miller from DWF.  He has acted for clients including C-Trip/Skyscanner, Expedia Group, Zoopla, uSwitch and Administrate, as well as the Oil & Gas Technology Centre.

Finally in China, Linklaters’ Shanghai free trade zone joint operation partner Zhao Sheng has hired Vivian Cao to its Beijing competition practice and corporate M&A lawyer Colette Pan to it Shanghai office. Cao has international and domestic competition law experience while Pan specialises in China-facing financial institution, tech and fintech M&A and financial regulation. Both partners join from Fangda Partners and are PRC and New York State qualified.

Legal Business

Ince merger pays dividends for Gordon Dadds as revenue and profit skyrocket post acquisition

Ince merger pays dividends for Gordon Dadds as revenue and profit skyrocket post acquisition

Gordon Dadds has posted a pace-setting set of results that have seen revenue and profit soar thanks to the addition of Ince & Co last year.

The listed entity, Gordon Dadds Group Plc, saw revenue boosted 69% from £31.2m to £52.6m following its £43m acquisition of Ince. It is a positive set of results that come after the business suffered a share price drop to an all-time low only three months ago.

Profits increased by 73% to £15.2m from £8.8m and earnings per share saw a 79% surge as dividend per share increased 50%. The firm has also reduced debt from £8.4m to £2.9m. The business reported a non-recurring cost of £14.3m for acquisitions, including Ince’s Chinese business at the start of the year, which marked the completion of Ince’s integration.

Chief executive Adrian Biles (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘All of our areas have seen plenty of activity. There’s an awful lot happening in the Strait of Hormuz and depending on what happens that obviously might well affect the shipping market. We’re looking to capitalise on those areas in which we are already a market or world-leader and offer more. Since we put the two businesses together, we’ve greatly increased the range of services that we offer to our clients.’

The group operates from eight jurisdictions in Europe, the Middle East and Asia and recently opened a London office in the Lloyds insurance market to improve its insurance offering. The listed firm reported no partner or client losses during and since its acquisition period and announced the lateral hires of three partners to its Hong Kong office.

Legal Business

Ince Gordon Dadds sees share price fall following critical administrator report

Ince Gordon Dadds sees share price fall following critical administrator report

Merger vital to saving ‘unmanageable’ Ince business, says Quantuma

Newly-merged listed firm Ince Gordon Dadds saw its share price dip to an all-time low of 130p in March, following a damning creditor’s report from administrator Quantuma on the legacy Ince & Co business.