Deal allows firm to reach beyond EC1

Oxygen Holdings has made its first acquisition after capturing Smart & Cook's consulting business for an undisclosed fee.

Smart & Cook Consulting (SCC) will become part of Oxygen's broking operation and rebranded Oxygen UK Corporate Risks.

The deal has ended speculation of a potential MBO by senior managers at SCC.

Sean Hicks, former managing director of SCC who is now head of Oxygen UK Corporate Risks, told Insurance Times: "Through the whole appraisal process, which ran through most of this year, there were always going to be several options.

"As one was not to sell to a traditional competitor, we were really looking at an MBO or something else. At the end of the day it wasn't about egos or me wanting my name above the door but what was best for the business."

Hicks admitted that because of Smart & Cook's acquisition strategy it would have been "increasingly problematic in the future" for the division to remain part of the broking company.

Meanwhile, the acquisition will give Oxygen its first operating location outside London with the consulting business remaining in Leeds.

It will also provide a wider UK presence with the transfer of all staff and client portfolios to Oxygen.

"This is not about cost cutting," insisted Nigel Barton, chief executive of Oxygen Holdings.

He said that SCC's business model, with services provided solely on a fee basis encouraging full transparency, was directly in line with Oxygen's making the two businesses "a perfect fit".

Barton did not discount future acquisitions, but insisted that despite adding one more team to Oxygen next month, 2007 would be a year of consolidation for the company.