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06 March 2020

UK listed firm Knights splurges almost £30m on brace of deals as M&A spree continues

AIM-listed firm will part fund acquisitions of Shulmans and ASB by issuing £20 million in new shares

Picture of David Beech

Knights CEO David Beech says both Shulmans and ASB have ambitious teams and a progressive approach to the law

UK legal and professional services firm Knights has added to its nation-wide acquisition strategy with a brace of deals worth up to a combined £28.6m.

Knights acquired Leeds-based Shulmans for up to £20.1m and South East-based firm ASB Law for up to £8.5m, subject to certain conditions being met. Knights said it would partly fund the acquisitions through a £20m share sale.

The deals will significantly increase Knights’ UK footprint as it seeks to become the largest legal and professional services firm outside of London, taking its fee earner count to 900 across 15 offices. 

The Shulmans acquisition adds 130 fee earners to Knights’ roster, bolstering its corporate, litigation, employment and real estate expertise. The ASB acquisition adds another 89 fee earners covering commercial, corporate finance, dispute resolution and employment advice. ASB has offices in Crawley and Maidstone. 

David Beech, Knights’ chief executive officer, said: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of Shulmans today, marking our entry into a new and important market with the addition of this quality full service commercial law firm which is recognised as Top 200 UK law firm by revenue.”

The acquisition is Knights’ latest play in the region after it opened a York office in January. Knights said the Yorkshire market is worth an estimated £437m. 

Tim Halstead, Shulmans’ managing partner, said: “We have achieved significant growth in recent years to become a leading independent law firm in the North. Having worked alongside Knights previously, we believe its collegiate approach, range of services and broad client base will provide an excellent match for us to continue to grow as part of the wider group.”

The AIM-listed firm said the ASB deal will give Knights access to a South East market worth around £242 million.

Beech added that both Shulmans and ASB have ambitious teams and a progressive approach to the law which makes them a strong cultural fit with Knights.

Last month Knights acquired Nottingham-based firm Fraser Brown Solicitors in a deal worth up to almost £8.3 million to strengthen its presence in the East Midlands. It also purchased Manchester-based real estate specialists Croftons Solicitors for as much as £2.8 million.

The firm's ambition to build a national UK firm echoes Dentons' US strategy to build a network of regional firms that will ultimately cover the entire country under project  ‘project golden spike’.

Other listed UK firms using their buying power to grow include Gateley, which this week acquired Belfast-based reputation management and media law boutique Paul Tweed for £2m.

In recent weeks fellow top 50 listed law firm DWF has acquired Chicago-based managed services business Mindcrest for $18.5m in January and Spanish law firm RCD for €50.5m in December.

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