Keey alleges he had been trying to recruit senior executives from Towergate to join Gallagher at time of contract termination

Royal Court of Justice

Christopher Keey has denied that he was involved in a team move of senior executives from Arthur J Gallagher to Towergate or that he tried to interfere with Gallagher’s acquisition plans. 

Outlined in his defence released today at the High Court, Keey who acted as an M&A consultant for Gallagher, claims at the time that his contract with Gallagher was terminated on 20 February, he had been trying to recruit senior executives from Towergate.

Gallagher is suing former chief executive David Ross, ex-International chief financial officer Mark Mugge and Keey.

The trio are accused of diverting purchases of Towergate, Autonet Insurance Services and Canadian broker Iridium, away from Gallagher.

Mugge and Ross are also accused of orchestrating a team move of senior executives from Gallagher to Towergate.

Gallagher claimed it believed that Keey had been engaged by Highbridge/Sierra, but added the precise details were unknown.

Responding to Gallagher’s claims, Keey said: “No admissions are made as to what beliefs Gallagher has, or for the basis of any such beliefs. Further information will be sought in this regard, and the assertion is embarrassing.”

Gallagher also accused Keey and Ross of arranging a meeting on 9 December 2014 with Highbridge partner Scot French and Bank of America Merrill Lynch European chair of European financial institutions Henrietta Baldock to discuss the acquisition of Towergate and a team move.

But Keey denies that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss any team move.

He claims it was merely introductory, to obtain details about the situation with Towergate and understand the involvement of Highbridge.

Keey further alleges that at the time neither the UK arm of Gallagher nor any other part of the group was able or willing to acquire Towergate.

“There were widespread market rumours that Towergate was in dire financial trouble, and the that fact presented opportunities for other businesses,” he said. ”It is admitted and averred that Keey was aware of the opportunities for Gallagher to attempt to recruit Towergate employees and was working towards achieving that end.”

Keey alleges that an email dated 22 November 2014 from chief financial officer Doug Howell to Ross stated: “In my view, our best position is to wait and watch. In the meantime, open our arms to anyone that wants to jump from the sinking ship into our lifeboat.”

In response to the Autonet claims, Keey further alleges that Gallagher was not willing to buy the broker, valued at around £120m, because it had a $30m cap on acquisitions and that Autonet were not interested in selling a minority stake.

The trial involving all three accused will start in July. Gallagher has said it would not be “appropriate” to comment while legal proceedings were ongoing.