Employment law firm swoops in three-pronged £5m acquisition

Gavin Snell

Ellis Whittam, the employment law, HR, and health & safety specialist operating from Chester and Glasgow, has announced the growth of its business through three acquisitions by parent company Marlowe.

In deals worth a combined £5.15m, employment law advisory firm ESP, HR software provider Youmanage, and third sector specialist HR Services Partnership (HRSP), will join Ellis Whittam and sister company Law At Work (LAW) to strengthen the group’s employment law and HR arm.

The newly-acquired businesses will support Ellis Whittam’s growth trajectory and expand its service proposition.

Gavin Snell, Ellis Whittam chief executive, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome these new businesses into the Ellis Whittam family.

“Since becoming part of Marlowe, our ambition has been to acquire further businesses that complement our own, in order to strengthen the services we provide to our clients.

“These acquisitions reinforce our current offering with more high quality legal expertise, market leading software and greater capability in our HR consultancy offering.”

He added: “I’m incredibly excited about our future, the opportunities that this will bring for our brilliant team, and the enhanced level of support this will offer our SME and mid-market clients.”

ESP is an employment law advisory firm comprised of a small team of qualified employment lawyers. Established in 2003, the firm now supports some 170 retained clients – including the likes of Greene King, Randstad and Konica Minolta.

The acquisition of ESP will build on the existing strength of Ellis Whittam and LAW in the legal space, combining technology and SRA-regulated employment law expertise to deliver a competitive proposition against traditional law firms.

The Woking-based employment law compliance specialist was acquired for a total consideration of £3.2m, comprising a £2.5m upfront consideration and a deferred element of £0.7m.

Peter Byrne, director of ESPHR, said: “We are truly excited about the opportunities that this acquisition brings to the ESP team and our customers, enabling us to benefit from the wider ecosystem of Marlowe businesses operating in other complementary areas such as occupational health, HR software as a service (SaaS), e-Learning and health and safety services.

“Similarly, we are looking forward to working with the Ellis Whittam and Law At Work businesses to develop and build on our leading position in the mid-market as a new-model employment law firm and employee relations (ER) technology business.”

Reinforcing Ellis Whittam’s software offering, Youmanage helps employers improve the quality and effectiveness of their HR management processes through a new breed of subscription-based HR technology.

Based in Dundee, the company supports approximately 200 clients, having developed a functionally-rich platform that addresses the needs of both smaller and larger organisations.

Youmanage was acquired for a total consideration of £1.25m, comprising a £0.75m upfront consideration and a deferred element of £0.5m.

Nick Pye, Youmanage chief executive, said: “Technology is set to play an increasingly important role in the delivery of HR and advisory services to business owners, HR professionals and people managers alike.

“The entire Youmanage team look forward to working with Ellis Whittam and the Marlowe group of companies to provide technological advances in the HR tech space.”

Building on EW’s strong presence in the third sector, HRSP specialises in delivering bespoke HR support to charities, town and parish councils, and not-for-profit organisations.

Its team of 21 HR consultants provides project based and retained support to around 200 clients each year, offering trusted assistance with administrative, operational and strategic HR requirements.

Located in Horsham, the company has experienced strong growth in the past year, with an annual turnover of £1m. It was acquired for a total consideration of £0.7m.

Maria Aguilar, Director at HRSP said: “It is important for charity and not for profit clients to have access to bespoke, affordable and specialist HR and employment law support. Joining the Marlowe group means that our clients will continue receiving high quality HR support and will now also be able to access a wide range of other related services.”

A Fieldfisher Manchester team, led by corporate partner David Bowcock, acted for Marlowe plc and Ellis Whittam on all three acquisitions.