Abry Partners to buy legal rankings platform Chambers in deal worth £400m

UK private equity firm Inflexion had owned Chambers since 2018 and secured a 4.7x return on its investment

London-based Chambers is being sold to US owners Shutterstock

US mid-market investors Abry Partners has agreed to buy directories business Chambers and Partners from UK private equity firm Inflexion in a deal that values the company at more than £400m.

Inflexion acquired Chambers in 2018 and the firm said the sale represented a 4.7x return on its investment. 

Chambers is best known for its market-leading directories, which rank law firms and partners in 200 jurisdictions. Inflexion said it had brought in a new leadership team since the acquisition, led by chief executive Tim Noble, and had moved the business away from being a “paper-based” publisher “towards a digital and subscription-based product offering”.

Successes included expanding in the high-growth markets of Brazil and China and growing in the US, which now accounts for a third of its 2023 bookings, Inflexion said, adding that it had built up Chambers’ research arm and expanded the sales team from 11 to 65 having invested in its product and technology.

Partner Flor Kassai, head of Inflexion’s buyout fund, said: “The Chambers team built on a market leading brand to turbocharge its growth under our stewardship. They’ve created a highly successful business which has a significant runway for further growth and we are confident that the business will continue to thrive.”

Abry Partners, meantime, adds Chambers to a growing legal business portfolio that also includes US lawyer-ranking company Best Lawyers and US litigation services business US Legal Support.

Partner Nick Scola said the deal represented “an ideal investment” adding: “We are beyond excited to partner with the team to help accelerate growth and look forward to continuing to invest in the people, technology and resources that will further enhance the company’s product and service offerings.”

Paul Hastings advised Abry Partners on the deal, while Slaughter and May advised Inflexion. Taylor Wessing advised Chambers’ management team and Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft acted for Abry’s lender Barings.

The Paul Hastings team included partners Anu Balasubramanian, Jamie Holdoway, Peter Hayes, Jane Song and Aaron Charfoos, alongside a team of associates. Tax advice was provided by partner Arun Birla and antitrust advice was provided by partners Jade-Alexandra Fearns, Michael Wise and Camille Paulhac.

Inflexion has been fairly active in the legal market in recent months. Last week, it bought a stake in Allen & Overy’s aosphere risk management business, which the Magic Circle firm is spinning out as a standalone entity ahead of its planned merger with Shearman & Sterling. The FT reported the deal valued aosphere at around £200m.

Inflexion also acquired UK law firm DWF earlier this year in a take-private that valued the firm at around £342m. That was less than the firm was worth when it floated on the UK stock market in 2019 with a valuation of £366m.

While the private equity industry has not historically been a big player in the legal market, more deals are starting to crop up. Last month, for instance, Align Capital Partners acquired New York-based Counsel Press, a legal processing outsourcing provider focused on appellate services.

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