Ince Group has been acquired out of administration by UK law group Axiom DWFM, which has agreed to buy the insolvent firm’s legal business and associated assets.
But this time around, Ince’s partners will drive the direction of the business.
Ince & Co, as the successor entity will be known, will continue to operate separately from Axiom DWFM and will be managed independently as a separately branded legal services business, Ince said on Friday.
It said the transaction will allow its partner group “to refocus the firm’s growth strategy on its core legal services, whilst also improving operations and support structures”.
Donald Brown, chief executive of Ince & Co, said the acquisition will give “a simple and clear corporate and capital structure under professional, knowledgeable and robust ownership”.
“We are underpinned by a group of immensely talented lawyers with deep expertise in our key sectors,” he said.
“After taking over the management of the [publicly listed] group, it quickly became apparent that we needed to address a series of poorly structured and executed transactions and expansions.”
Managing partner Jennette Newman said Ince & Co is “committed to reinforcing the firm’s reputation of providing complex legal services to corporate, commercial and high-net-worth clients in our core sectors”.
Axiom DWFM is a full-service legal practice with a network of UK offices. Its managing partner, Pragnesh Modhwadia, who is a practising solicitor, said it has confidence in the Ince & Co business and its lawyers.
“When the opportunity came to acquire a business of the calibre of Ince & Co, we were eager to engage and are delighted that the Ince & Co team shared our enthusiasm,” he said.
“We believe we have a great relationship already and a great opportunity together.”
Ince said it intends to honour existing remuneration structures and said “other material liabilities of the business will be funded”.
The acquisition brings to an end a precarious period for Ince, once shipping’s foremost law firm.
It collapsed on 12 April after an unidentified major creditor pulled support from the firm. Ince has blamed its financial problems on a long-overdue audit that it said has sapped its cash flows.
Ince filed an initial application on 12 April, stating it intended to hire Quantuma as an administrator with the aim of selling the business to a third party. The application gave Ince 10 days in which to do so.
It filed a second notice of its intention to appoint an administrator with the court on Wednesday.
The notice period prevented creditors from commencing or continuing legal action against Ince, including winding-up petitions, without court permission.
Ince owes what is understood to be a significant amount in unpaid tax to HM Revenue & Customs. Anglo-South African bank Investec provided £17m ($21.2m) in loans to Ince in 2021, which are secured against certain Ince entities.
The firm’s assets have been valued at between £30m and £40m, a source told TradeWinds earlier this month.
But with most of its high-flying lawyers having already left, there has been serious attrition in its legal talent.
Meanwhile, Ince’s head of shipping & corporate law in Cyprus, George Zambartas, said it has been “business as usual” for clients in the country.
“This is an exciting time for us to continue to develop the Ince Cyprus office, which has gone from strength to strength since it was set up in October 2020 and has already made a significant contribution to the highly successful international network of Ince offices. For our clients, it is business as usual,” he said.
“For our talented people, it is a great opportunity, to be part of the next chapter of Ince & Co’s story, together with the other international Ince offices.”