Sumer hands Cowgills war chest to acquire regional accountancy firms

Paul Stringer

Bolton-based accountancy firm Cowgills has joined Sumer, the UK’s leading mid-market accountancy practice, in the latest wave of acquisitions sweeping the professional services market and is to be the new North West hub for an acquisition spree.

Formed by notable business figure Peter Cowgill, best known for his time as the executive chairman of JD Sports, Cowgills has recently moved its headquarters to Parklands, a new site next to Bolton Wanderers Football Club stadium, and has a strong presence in Manchester city centre and offices in Liverpool.

Parklands, new head office for Cowgills

Cowgills is the first North West practice – but also the biggest so far – to join private equity backed Sumer which has acquired smaller and medium-sized regional practices who they feel share the same ethos, values and approach.

The 23 partner and 200 employee strong practice will retain the Cowgills name and the Sumer deal now provides a ‘war chest’ for making acquisitions of accountancy and advisory businesses across the North West.

Though no longer a partner in the firm Peter Cowgill still has an office in Parklands for his private office and his son Ben Cowgill is a partner in the restructuring team at the firm.

Backed by private equity fund Penta, Sumer now has regional hubs throughout the UK, focused exclusively on the SME market. A natural fit, dovetailing with Sumer’s innovative business model, Cowgills are the eighth firm to announce a tie-up with Sumer. It joins existing Sumer Hubs: Monahans, RMT Accountants, RT Marke, Jerroms, Carpenter Box, and Simmons Gainsford. 

Its most recent acquisition was of EQ Accountants, a Scottish practice with over 140 staff and 16 partners, based in three offices in Tayside and Fife – Dundee, Forfar and Glenrothes. 

Paul Stringer, Managing Partner of Cowgills told that the partners in the firm had several offers from other consolidators in the market and from private equity, but this opportunity offered the best way forward: “We didn’t want to be acquired, we’re not ready to give up the Cowgills name, and the way the deal is structured gives partners the opportunity to reinvest and to bring the next generation into the ownership of the business.”

The deal also includes CHW, the specialist small business brand which operates out of the original home turf of Chorley New Road in Bolton.  

Stringer was also bullish in his ambitions for the firm, saying Cowgills will now be actively seeking to acquire practices and advisory businesses to make them the go-to firm for owner managed and entrepreneurial businesses in the North West.

“This partnership is fantastic news for our people and our clients.  Over the past five years, we’ve grown rapidly and were keen to increase this momentum.  By partnering with Sumer, we can amplify our growth and expansion across the North West, whilst ensuring our people and our clients have the very best opportunities.” 

He added: “We were impressed with Sumer’s ethos and plans for supporting the SME business community and to be part of their growth early on in their journey is a great opportunity. We’re incredibly proud of the Cowgills brand and Sumer has really bought into our culture and approach.”

Sumer is led by Warren Mead, the former chief operating officer of KPMG, and now the chief executive of Sumer. He commented:  “Cowgills is renowned in the North West for helping clients grow their businesses through its down-to-earth advice. Paul and his team have led the firm through significant growth. This has been achieved through a relentless focus on clients and offering its team a fantastic place to work. Cowgills is a great addition to our rapidly growing business.”

He also said: “Watch this space for more exciting news to come. Sumer is the UK’s fastest growing accountancy and professional services group. We are on a mission to become the UK’s champion of smaller businesses.”

One of Sumer’s board directors is Steven Scott a founding partner of Penta Capital LLP who specialise in funding private equity opportunities in the UK mid-market. Penta work alongside Toscafund, a global multi-asset manager, and have been active in platform investments, buyouts and take-private investments, mainly in the UK.

Scott also leads Penta Capital’s drive to consolidate the independent financial advice (IFA) market through Amber River, which is aiming to buy 15 to 20 regional hub businesses, each with around £200m to £300m of Assets under Advice (AUA). Penta aim to deploy £60m in equity out of a total funding in excess of £160m to acquire IFA businesses across the UK.

Based near Gatwick Airport, Sumer has emerged as a key accountancy sector player and, since its 2023 inception, has grown rapidly, with an annual turnover of over £100 million. Following the addition of Cowgills, Sumer now has 1,000 staff across 40 offices, supporting thousands of SME clients across the UK.