An innovative U.K. law firm best known for combining legal and nonlegal business services is set to acquire a London intellectual property (IP) boutique, The American Lawyer has learned.
Fast-growing media, technology and brands specialist Wiggin, which has increased its revenue by more than 40 percent over the past two years, will complete its deal for 14-lawyer Redd on Monday for an undisclosed fee.
Wiggin CEO John Banister told The American Lawyer that the firm has been seeking to expand and broaden its existing four-partner IP practice, which focuses on online rights protection, in order to keep pace with growing client demand for its services.
“There have been lots of client opportunities that we just weren’t in a position to take on because our team was too small,” he said.
Similarly, Redd co-founder Sara Ashby said that combining with Wiggin would “allow us to achieve scale while retaining our absolute focus on IP.”
Redd advises clients on a range of issues relating to the protection, enforcement and exploitation of intellectual property, including patent and trademark litigation, commercial IP transactions, and portfolio management services.
The acquisition will more than double the size of Wiggin’s IP team, to 20 lawyers. Redd partner Anna Carboni will jointly lead the expanded practice alongside current head Simon Baggs. (Banister previously worked with Carboni in the late ’90s when both were at Linklaters, as business manager and London IP head, respectively.)
Banister said that the acquisition is part of a broader strategy to develop technology and IP practices to go along with Wiggin’s core media sector business.
“We’ve always done IP and tech work, but we’ve never done it for clients outside the media sector,” he said. “The dynamic nature of the industry means that the types of clients that are heavily dependent on content aren’t just media businesses anymore.”
The Redd deal is “a significant step towards building the IP practice we want, but it isn’t the end result,” Banister added.
Wiggin’s technology practice has already been bolstered by the recruitment of Gardner, who is named as a leading computer games expert by the directory The Legal 500. Gardner advised Nintendo on issues relating to the launch and development of its 3DS and Wii U consoles, while his other clients include leading games companies Konami and Square Enix.
Banister said that computer games had been “a gap” in the firm’s practice, adding that Gardner will also work closely with Wiggin’s existing betting and gaming practice to target work in the fast-growing esports sector. (eSports is a term given to competitive video games. Previously confined largely to the United States and Asia, eSports is quickly growing in popularity worldwide, with some events watched in greater numbers than the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl.)
“When these new areas come up, we need to be able to react to the opportunities,” he said.
Wiggin will ultimately seek to build a more significant technology practice in a “similar way” to IP and the Redd deal, Banister said, but further lateral hires or acquisitions in that area are unlikely in the short term.
“Our priority is getting the Redd team properly integrated; that takes time,” he said. “Some law firms are all about growth for growth’s sake, but we’re not going to rush out and chase a deal. We want to get it right.”
In 2012, Wiggin became one of the first U.K. law firms to convert to a so-called “alternative business structure,” which permits firms to appoint nonlawyer partners and accept external equity investment.
Earlier this year, Wiggin established an executive production services company called Viewfinder and opened an office in Los Angeles to help source financing and distribution for movie producers and rights holders. Wiggin has already acted as executive producer on a number of major movies, including “The History Boys” and 2015′s “The Lady in the Van,” starring multiple Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy winner and “Downton Abbey” star Maggie Smith.
Wiggin also operates its own on-demand TV channel that has carriage contracts across Europe, and has developed a technology product that scours the internet for brand and copyright infringement on behalf of clients. Incopro, which was financed by luxury brand owner Compagnie Financière Richemont SA but is owned by the firm’s equity partners, took on additional external financing in 2015 and now employs more than 40 system developers, analysts and salespeople.
Wiggin has become one of the U.K. legal market’s fastest-growing firms, with consecutive years of double-digit revenue and profit growth. Its revenue leaped 21 percent in the last fiscal year, to 22.8 million pounds ($30 million), with its profit margin rising to 41 percent—higher than the margins at such firms as Weil, Gotshal & Manges and White & Case, according to The American Lawyer’s Global 100 survey.
Banister said that the firm’s performance has been strong across-the-board, but that its online gaming and betting practice has seen particularly rapid growth.
Wiggin was already on track for another year of double-digit growth, he added, but the Redd deal is expected to see the firm double the revenue of its IP practice, from around 3 million pounds ($4 million) to 6 million pounds ($8 million), within the next 12 months.
“We’re in a relatively rosy period,” Banister said. “That’s not to say it couldn’t be better, but we’re doing well.”