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Thames Valley Deals Awards: meet the winners

By Tim Wickham
4 November 2021
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Local businesses celebrated in style at the 2021 Thames Valley Deals Awards where 14 winners were recognised for their outstanding achievements during a challenging period.

Over 300 finalists, sponsors, and other guests attended the glittering ceremony at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre, hosted by TV presenter Mark Durden-Smith in his inimitable style.

The Awards highlight the work of the region’s leading dealmakers, corporate finance specialists, lawyers, accountants, banks and non-bank lenders. UBS was the headline sponsor. The other award sponsors were IBB Law, Gateley Legal, Crowe, Shawbrook Bank, ThinCats, LDC, HMT, and BDO.

A panel of judges selected the finalists and winners, except for the winners in the small, medium, and large deal of the year categories, where voting by the audience on the evening contributed 30% of the final vote in addition to the judges’ 70% vote.

Welcoming everyone back to the awards after their postponement last year, Richard Thompson, Managing Director of Black Ox, publisher of The Business Magazine, said:

“There were some complex deals completed in the region over the past 18 months, not made any easier by having to work within government guidelines due to Covid-19, with staffing levels reduced and face-to-face meetings with clients put on hold. But all the finalists made it happen which is why we are celebrating their successes.”

During the evening, the audience donated over £3,400 to the charity Brain Tumour Research. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer, but only 1% of the national spend on cancer research is currently allocated to tackling the disease. In a friendly bidding contest, law firm rivals IBB Law and Gateley Legal each pledged £500 as part of the total.

And the winners are…

Private Equity Firm of the Year

Winner: YFM Equity Partners

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“We invest in early-stage, fast-growing technology-focused business and many of these companies haven’t really felt any effects from Brexit, Covid-19, or supply chain issues, especially where their software has been in demand as more people work from home. We also work with clients looking to transition their businesses from the founder to the management team and the pandemic has been a trigger for this type of succession planning. We had a heightened deal flow and our busiest year ever.” David Wrench, Partner, YFM Equity Partners

Finalists:

• BGF

• LDC

• Mobeus Equity Partners

• NVM Private Equity

Non-Bank Lender of the Year

Winner: ThinCats

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“Our biggest challenge was making an impression on client management teams when many were working from home. We are a people-oriented business and had to make sure we could get a feel for how they were running their businesses. We did this by finding other ways to spend time with them. Interestingly, it has often been easier doing that by phone, especially when a lot of stakeholders are involved in a transaction. What has been key for us is understanding the challenges clients have faced, not only in the last 18 months but also pre- and post-Covid.” Stuart Thompson, Director, ThinCats

Finalists:

• Leumi ABL

• Tower Leasing

Lawyer of the Year

Winner: Greg Leyshon, Osborne Clarke

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners
(Colleague accepting award for Greg Leyshon)

“It’s been up and down for us. Transactional activity picked up well over the summer of 2020. In April 2021, our corporate practice was up 9% on the previous year, which was itself a record year. Apart from April and May 2020, the deals market has remained buoyant and business confidence has been quite robust. It seems to be quite sector-specific – lots of deals in tech, media, comms, life science and healthcare, renewable energy, transport innovation; fewer deals in leisure and hospitality. I think few people have found the last 18 months easy or enjoyable, but advisers and clients have made it work.” Greg Leyshon, partner, Osborne Clarke

Finalists:

• Adam Dowdney, IBB Law

• Andrew Peddie, Gateley

• Robert Rice, HCR

• Sanjeev Sharma, Shoosmiths

• Rachel Turner, HCR

Young Deal Maker of the Year (under 35)

Winner: Ricky Collis, HMT

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“It has been a really strong year for us, although Covid-19 meant there was a pause in activity. But we have adapted, taken advantage of the situation and grown the business out of the problem. The skillset of everyone at the firm is important, especially by focusing not just on the transactions but also spending time to understand our clients.” Ricky Collis, Associate Director, HMT

Finalists:

• James Buckingham, BDO

• Catrin Dilloway, Maven Capital Partners

• Gemma Legg, KPMG

• Ben Lowe, FRP

• Jack Redwood, Benchmark International

• Jack Teasdale, BGF

Due Diligence Team

Winner: PwC

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“There was a period of adjustment at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team responded by being proactive, staying close to business opportunities and focusing on what really mattered. A lot of that came down to partnering with clients to figure out what was important for them. Data analytics is a major area that we have invested in, so we can draw in rich data about clients to interpret and analyse so we better understand their story.” Luc Mastenbroek, Senior Manager, PwC

Finalists:

• BDO

• Crowe

• HMT

• James Cowper Kreston

• RSM

• Wilson Partners

Corporate Finance Team of the Year

Winner: FRP Corporate Finance

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“Things went off a cliff overnight in March last year. We did a few deals in the period to September 2020 but it was a bit of a struggle. We were helped by our debt advisory team’s work. Then in Q4, 2020, and Q1, 2021, we were absolutely manic, which gave us all a boost. This was due, in part, to perceived changes in tax rates that were expected to happen. We closed 12 deals in one week and the sale of Spectrum to FRP was the thirteenth.” Simon Davies, Partner, FRP Corporate Finance

Finalists:

• BDO

• Grant Thornton

• HMT

• KPMG

• PwC

Law Firm of the Year

Winner: HCR Law

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“We have had a tremendously busy year. I’m really pleased that we bucked the trend in attracting new staff and growing rapidly. We set ourselves a goal going into the first lockdown that, however long it took, we would come out stronger and that is exactly what we have done. This is a testament to our clients and we have had a consistent deal flow, showing they are undeterred by the pandemic and continue to make strategic decisions that demonstrate how resilient the region has been. There has been a lot of investment in technology companies and a lot of inbound US investment.” Rob Rice, Partner, HCR

Finalists:

• Gateley

• IBB Law

• Osborne Clark

• Shoosmiths

Corporate Finance Adviser of the Year

Winner: Simon Davies, FRP

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“I’m chuffed to win. The range of deals I was involved with over the last year were all quite different. There was a lot of variety which, for me, was enjoyable and challenging as they all presented different problems. I think my experience counts because I can add value and sometimes see problems before they happen. I look to get ahead with the answer before the question is asked by the client. I work closely with other advisers in the region and our relationships are really sound, which helps to cement the quality of our work.” Simon Davies, Partner, FRP Corporate Finance

Finalists:

Tim Armstrong, PwC

Duncan Lamb, BDO

Nigel Le Bas, Grant Thornton

Andrew Thompson, HMT

Stuart Williams, James Cowper Kreston

Bank of the Year

Winner: HSBC

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“The first six to 12 months of the pandemic were tough for a lot of clients who had to adjust to what was an incredibly difficult environment. The success of our team is in how we support clients by understanding their challenges. We showed empathy and listened to their needs. We had to get to grips with the government Covid-19 business loans, launching new products within 10 days of loans being announced. Probably the biggest transformation for banking professionals has been the number of new products announced.” Laura Lin-Wilkes, Thames Valley Business Banking Area Director, HSBC, and Mike Miller, Head of Leveraged Corporates, HSBC

Finalists:

• NatWest

• Santander

• Shawbrook

International Deal of the Year

Winner: Sale of LSI Consulting to Invenio Business Solutions

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“With Invenio, we are always looking at building the business and the US market is one it wanted to get into. We backed the acquisition of US company LSI, which was a large deal done at a challenging time. We couldn’t go to the US due to Covid-19 restrictions and the transaction needed special tax and legal advice relating to investing in the US. We had very good relationships with all the advisers on the deal. We knew it was going to be a complex deal and we knew and trusted all the advisers.” Alex Snodgrass, Investor, BGF

Finalists:

• Investment in Supermassive Games by Nordisk Games

• Sale of Dezeen to JP/Plitikens Hus Media Group

Small Deal of the Year (under £10m)

Winner: Investment in Horizon Technologies

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“Horizon is a Reading-based aerospace business that is international and has huge potential, which is why we invested in them. The aerospace industry has a lot of regulations and legal requirements, which made the deal complicated. During negotiations, its CEO was stranded overseas at times and I had to isolate with Covid-19. We had a really good team of local advisers, especially Gateley Legal, who all went above and beyond. The deal required a strong team effort.” Luke Matthews, Investment Director, Maven Partners

Finalists:

• Sale of Yellow Zebra Travel to Wilderness Safari

• Management buyout of RGE Services

• Investment in Horizon Technologies

• Sale of Ingenie to A-Plan

• Sale of Clientbase to Whistl

• Investment in Caristo Diagnostics

Mid-range Deal of the Year (£10m-£50m)

Winner: Management buyout of Aker Systems

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

Finalists:

• Management buyout of Aker Solutions

• Management buyout of Foundation SP

• Management buyout of Pareto Facilities Management

• Sale of Simply Waste to Biffa

• Secondary buyout of Vectair

• Sale of Porterhouse Medical Group to IMC

Large Deal of the Year (over £50m)

Winner: Sale of Babble

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“Babble has grown very quickly. This deal was 20 times larger than the one we completed with LDC three years ago and you can’t do that without having a strong team of advisers around you. We worked with them all the way through last year’s difficult environment. LDC exited its stake and this secondary MBO takes us forward. Since completing the deal in November 2020, we have made a further nine acquisitions and the company is nearly two times larger.” Matt Parker, CEO, Babble

Finalists:

• Sale of Babble

• Investment in CIPHR

Management Team of the Year

Winner: Foundation SP

Thames Valley Deals Awards winners

“Last year was challenging for us with Covid-19 but we outperformed all of our forecasts. We added 50 people and had strong growth. We were privately owned and the management buyout saw LDC take a stake in the business. We chose them because it was a brilliant cultural match for us. We are now continuing with organic and acquisitive growth.” Tim Ebenezer, COO, Foundation SP

Finalists:

• Aker Solutions

• CIPHR

• Pareto Facilities Management

• Vectair Systems

(Additional reporting by Kani Talabani)