Two-thirds of Abbey Legal shares bought by management team

The management team of Abbey Legal and Tax Protection has launched a "partial management buy-out (MBO)" to take a controlling interest in the company.

Abbey Legal Protection head Chris Ward and his colleague Colin Davidson, who heads the tax protection division, have taken personal stakes.

Ward said: "In essence it is not a full MBO, instead we have restructured the share ownership at Abbey.

"We had a disparate group of shareholders, but now the executive management team has taken two-thirds of the shares."

Six executive management members now hold 67% of the company's shares, while corporate shareholder Numis has taken approximately 30% shareholding from its previous 26%. Ward confirmed that he and Davidson were the two largest shareholders in the management team, both holding 16.5%.

Abbey Legal Protection's chairman and founder James Innes will retain a 3% share in the company.

Ward said that a number of clients had been informed of the changes "informally", but stressed: "It's business as usual. The decision to invest was made by the team that we wanted a personal interest in the success of the company."

Abbey Legal Protection reported a pre-tax profit of £1.3m to the end of March 2003. Ward said the company predicted gross written premium (GWP) in 2004 would reach £25m.

Its tax operation will remain in Rugby, and its legal advice services stay in Croydon. But Ward said the company was looking for new London premises after its lease expired on its offices at Ibex House, The Minories.

"We are hoping to move down the road," he added.