VCT adviser Howard Kennedy completes merger with FSI

London law firms Howard Kennedy and Finers Stephens Innocent (FSI) have finalised their merger following a delay that added three months to the process.

Howard Kennedy came into the deal as a major specialist in the enterprise investment scheme (EIS) and venture capital trust (VCT) market, having advised on the country’s first seed enterprise investment scheme, launched by Ascension Ventures in May last year.

The new firm, called HowardKennedyFsi, employs more than 350 staff, including 87 partners, 19 of whom are equity. While it has a significant UK focus, 25 per cent of its revenue comes from overseas, predominantly the Middle East, Indian sub-continent, Far East, Western Europe and the US. It is expected to have annual revenue in the region of £38m.

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Mark Dembovsky is chief executive, having joined Howard Kennedy in January 2011, while Paul Millett, former managing partner of FSI, is non-executive chairman.

Before the merger, Howard Kennedy became known for being one of the most active legal advisers in the EIS and VCT market.

In the 2010/11 tax year, the firm was the legal or sponsor adviser to nearly two-thirds of all VCTs launched, amounting to £180m in fundraising for its clients. Its single largest VCT fundraising was the Downing Planned Exit 2011, which attracted £35m in investment.

Howard Kennedy and FSI had originally planned to complete the merger by 1 November 2012, but the firms missed the 10-week target due to problems integrating their back office functions, forcing them a delay of an additional 12 weeks.

The firm plans to continue working across its three offices in London until it finds suitable office space to house all staff.

Mr Dembovsky said, “We have been working very closely together over the past few months with many integration processes already under way. A number of staff have already been relocated to sit with their colleagues and a number of cases have been cross referred between the two firms.”