Bumper Year for Deals at Ashtons Legal
Ashtons Legal is delighted to report on a bumper year for their Corporate and Commercial team in 2022, which saw them complete a record number of deals.
2023 has also got off to a flying start with a number of completed deals, including the sale of £80m turnover business Thomas Ridley Foodservice to multi-billion pound food service group Bidcorp UK and the sale of Academia Group Limited and all of its global subsidiaries including CNet Training Ltd to Uptime Institute, a Dominus Capital, L.P. portfolio company.
The 15-strong corporate and commercial team have seen a sharp upturn in business sales, acquisitions and management buyouts and have also worked with a number of organisations demerging and seeking investment in their businesses.
Technology is a fast-paced sector, and associates Mark Watson, Craig Fiddaman and David Sloman have seen an increasing number of tech businesses needing their expert help. In the year, Mark advised digital marketing and software agency xDNA in their acquisition of Climb Online, which was founded in 2015 by the BBC Apprentice winner Mark Wright and backed by Lord Sugar. The sale of Climb Online was considered a major milestone as it is the first business to exit successfully following the TV show’s conception. David Sloman worked on the sale of conversational AI company, ubisend on their sale to Soprano Design, an international communications platform supplier. Craig meanwhile assisted data and technology specialist HTK on their sale to a US-headquartered, global customer engagement company.
Early in 2022, Mark also completed the sale of marine engineering specialist AR Peachment Limited to a member of the Alliance Marine Group, a French recreational boating and marine equipment distributor. Craig advised the shareholders and management team of Woodward Markwell Insurance Brokers on the sale of its general insurance business (now known as WM Brokers) to Global Risk Partners Limited (GRP), and David assisted HB Pizza Ltd, the UK investment arm of one of the US’ largest Papa John’s franchisees, PJ Restaurants, on their acquisition of 32 Papa Johns’ stores in the North of England.
Elsewhere in the team, partners Geoff Hazlewood works a lot with care homes, Paul Whittingham with veterinary practices and Richard Bailey has worked in the education sector for a number of years. Damian Humphrey heads a team who provide legal expertise to franchisors and franchisees. They work very closely with Ashtons Franchise Consulting and boast an impressive list of household names as clients.
The Thomas Ridley and Academia Group deals included gargantuan efforts over the last few months with input from across the firm – Commercial Property, Employment, Road Transport and Regulatory, Company Secretarial, Data Protection and the Trusts teams and specialists all worked together to ensure the delivery of two smooth client transactions.
Ashtons’ network of contacts continues to grow, and the firm is proud to support and sponsor cofinitive’s #21toWatch awards once again. The awards showcase new business entrants to the East Anglian market, those businesses we expect to see gracing the headlines for innovation in the years to come. Ashtons is also a legal partner at Akcela Ventures, the start-up incubator in Norwich and Hethel Innovation, another business incubation supporter who has the Hethel Engineering Centre and Scottow Enterprise Park in Norfolk. Through these collaborations, our lawyers have access to over 100 businesses finding their place in the market and growing. In return, these companies have access to a team of dedicated legal professionals who get to know their business inside and out in order to help and guide them through everything running a business throws at them!
Our commercial lawyers work closely with other specialist teams within Ashtons – commercial property, employment, regulatory, dispute resolution, business recovery, agriculture and franchising, to name a few. Our experts are highly rated, ranked very highly by legal commentators but also by our clients – the firm is ranked number one for company and commercial law in Cambridge by Review Solicitors.
Interim head of Ashtons’ business client group Ed O’Rourke said: “I am really proud of how hard my colleagues have worked this past year, guiding businesses through very complex processes. Each and every one of the team has forged relationships with clients, some new, others from the outset of their company’s formation, so it is always really pleasing to see these clients take the next steps in selling their business or expanding their operations or portfolio”.
Ed adds: “None of this great work is possible without the help from other teams across Ashtons. The majority of our deals include advice from our employment and commercial property teams, and I am equally proud of the way in which these disciplines work so well together to give clients the exceptional service we are so proud of”.
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