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Winners of The Business Magazine's 2022 Solent Deals Awards revealed

By Tim Wickham
25 March 2022

After 18 months of Covid-19 uncertainty the mood was ebullient at the 2022 Solent Deals Awards, where over 250 finalists, guests and sponsors celebrated the region’s deals activity in style.

Welcoming everyone to the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl, Richard Thompson, Managing Director of The Business Magazine, said:

“The range and quality of entries confirmed the high level of deal activity over the last 18 difficult months in the Solent. This is testament to the dynamism of the region’s corporate finance market, as well as the expertise of its advisors and deal makers.”

The five independent judges of the awards received a vote of thanks for their hard work and dedication. “As always with these awards, there was much debate before agreeing on the finalists and winners across the 14 award categories,” said Thompson.

For three award categories – Small, Mid-Range and Large Deals of the Year – an audience vote on the night contributed to 30% of the overall result, in addition to the judges’ 70%.

UBS were the headline sponsors

The Solent Deals Awards headline sponsor was UBS. The category sponsors were Azets, Barclays Bank, Biscoes Legal Services, Blake Morgan, CMA Recruitment Group, James Cowper Kreston, Meridian Corporate Finance, Pangea Life, Paris Smith and Shawbrook Bank.

UBS director, Kate Richardson, said: “UBS were delighted to be Headline sponsor at The Solent Deal Awards. The number and quality of entries showcased the level of deal activity in the Solent. This demonstrates the breath and quality of the region’s corporate finance houses, and Professional advisors.”

Back by popular demand, TV presenter Mark Durden-Smith hosted the awards with his audience-pleasing blend of enthusiasm and good-natured banter.

Several thousand pounds was raised on the evening for Brain Tumour Research. The charity aims to give brain tumour patients the same chance as those with other cancers.

Kate Richardson of UBS opens The Business Magazine's Solent Deals Awards 2022

And the winners are…

Private Equity Firm of the Year

Winner: BGF

"Like most organisations, we had to be flexible in a demanding environment. We were good at adopting new technology and hybrid working. We were very focused on continuing funding through the Covid-19 period. We invest in businesses regardless of the environment and also found good new opportunities out there. At the start of the pandemic, there were a lot of cash-out transactions as businesses sought to get value, while fast-growing businesses still needed capital to keep growing. The period has been a catalyst as individuals re-assessed what they wanted to do with their businesses." Alex Snodgrass, Investor and Lead for team covering the Thames Valley and Solent, BGF

The BGF team won Private Equity Firm of the Year


• Equistone


• Livingbridge

• YFM Equity Partners

Non-Bank Lender of the Year

Winner: MSP Capital

"We’re grateful to be recognised with this award. As a local company, based in Poole, the Solent is a core area where we do business and we are really thankful to our clients and suppliers who help us continue to do the work we’re passionate about.” Rachel Bartlett, Marketing Manager, MSP Capital

Rachel Bartlett from MSP Capital joined us virtually to accept the Non-Bank Lender of the Year award


• Arbuthnot Commercial Asset Based Lending


• SME Capital

• ThinCats

• Triple Point investment Manager

Lawyer of the Year

Winner: James Hawkeswood – Blake Morgan

“It's great to be recognised by my peers, but it's very much a bonus that comes with being part of a great team. That one of our other partners – Mat Wilson – also made the shortlist, was fantastic and to see so many of the deals we were involved in making the shortlists of the various 'Deal of the Year' categories probably played a big part in our picking up the Law Firm of the Year award. The last couple of years have been challenging for everyone. We all had to adapt so much and so quickly and the way people pulled together and looked out for each other was genuinely powerful. We did what was needed to make sure our colleagues were supported and our clients continued to receive the service they have come to expect from us.” James Hawkeswood, Partner, Blake Morgan

James Hawkeswood also made a virtual appearance when winning Lawyer of the Year
Simon Staples of Blake Morgan accepted James' trophy in his place


• Richard Atcherley – Paris Smith

• Amanda Brockwell – Paris Smith

• Oliver Kelly – BDB Pitmans

• Stephen Porter – Shoosmiths

• Mat Wilson – Blake Morgan

Due Diligence Team of the Year

Winner: RSM UK

"It was a difficult few months at the start of the pandemic. We had to figure out how to do due diligence work via video and conference calls. It was a real learning curve for all of us. The green shoots of deal activity came back around June/July 2020 and it was one of the busiest periods I can remember at RSM. We had our best year ever to March 2021 and an even better year to March 2022. It's been great to invest in the team and build up our staff numbers. We now have a hybrid working model that is flexible and allows the team to do what they have to do. We also welcome the opportunity of having more face-to-face meetings with clients." Alex Milne, Partner, RSM UK

Alex Milne collected the award for RSM UK


• James Cowper Kreston

• PwC

Young Dealmaker of the Year

Winner: Hattie Hole – Meridian Corporate Finance

"We saw a big slowdown in deal flow in the initial period of Covid-19 lockdown as shareholders focused on keeping businesses going. When things started to return to normality there was a change as people were keen to start to build up momentum again. Businesses also took the time during the pandemic to re-evaluate their strategies and their market positions and adjusted how they operate. Now, there is much more appetite for growth and more money available from private equity houses. We are even busier." Hattie Hole, Manager, Meridian Corporate Finance

Hattie Hole of Meridian Meridian Corporate Finance won Young Dealmaker of the Year


• Michael Mackintosh – KPMG

• Louis Nutland – Azets Corporate Finance

• Prabin Sunar – Meridian Corporate Finance

• Reuben Taylor – Quantuma

Bank of the Year

Winner: HSBC UK

"The biggest thing for us was being there to support customers in their hour of need and that came in many different ways apart from just finance. We were having conversations around how they support their staff, about furlough schemes and financial forecasts. For us, it was a case of being a trusted adviser. We saw multiple different scenarios being played out with clients and we were talking with them about their whole strategy, rather than just the funding. We have learned new skillsets during these tough times and learned a different way of banking." Gareth Evans, Area Director, HSBC UK

HSBC won Bank of the Year


• Barclays

• NatWest

• Santander

• Shawbrook Bank

Banker of the Year

Winner: Ben Hyslop – HSBC UK

"I'm delighted to win in a very strong category. During these unprecedented times, the heart of everything I’ve been doing has been about supporting the local business community, for example, with Covid-19 loans. Anything that keeps the wheels moving has been critical and banks have played a key role in that. One of the standout deals I was involved with was CT Automotive's IPO. It's a great business and I'm pleased to have supported the company since its inception. Haskins Garden Centres' acquisitions were also significant." Ben Hyslop, Senior Corporate Relationship Manager, HSBC UK

Ben Hyslop of HSBC UK won Banker of the Year


• Carey Moore – NatWest

• Sharon Murphy – HSBC UK

• Eleanor Thomson – Barclays

• Jo Whatley – Hildart (previously with Santander)

Corporate Finance Adviser of the Year

Winner: Nigel Le Bas – Grant Thornton

"It was very quiet from the start of the pandemic until about September 2020, with a lot of concern in the market. Since then, our team and the whole market have been extremely busy, almost non-stop. Working from home has made things easier in lots of ways, especially the logistics of organising client meetings. We are now in a better and stronger position with the firm much more integrated nationally. We are less constricted as a local region, both in terms of where clients come from and in helping colleagues in other regions." Nigel Le Bas, Director, Grant Thornton

Nigel Le Bas won Corporate Finance Adviser of the Year


• Ian Barton – Quantuma

• Sami Fairris – KPMG

• Rob Holmes – Azets Corporate Finance

• Stewart Lambert – James Cowper Kreston

• Philip Mettam – Meridian Corporate Finance

• Darren Miller – FRP Advisory

• Stuart Williams – James Cowper Kreston

Corporate Finance Team of the Year

Winner: Meridian Corporate Finance

"The challenge during the period under review has been keeping and building relationships. What the last 18 months have reinforced is that as a firm and region we have a lot of really great people and a lot of really good relationships. Everyone is focused on getting the best results for clients. Deal flow has been a lot more 'peaky' but over the last six to nine months there has been a steady increase. With things getting back to normal we'll hopefully have a really good year or two ahead." Philip Mettam, Director, Meridian Corporate Finance

Meridian Corporate Finance won Corporate Finance Team of the Year


• Azets Corporate Finance

• FRP Corporate Finance

• James Cowper Kreston

• PKF Francis Clark

Law Firm of the Year

Winner: Blake Morgan

"What really stood out for us and characterised the firm over the last two years is that everybody has shown a huge amount of confidence and pulled together fantastically. Deal activity was on a high at the end of the period under review. We've figured out how to work from home and ensure all the things that make us great still work. And we've come out the other end of the pandemic with a lot of new skills that make us stronger for the future." Kath Shimmin, Chair, Blake Morgan

Blake Morgan won Law Firm of the Year


• BDB Pitmans

• Moore Barlow

• Paris Smith

• Shoosmiths

Small Deal of the Year (under £10m)

Winner: MBO of Corrigenda Group

"Azets advised Corrigenda's shareholders on the MBO and negotiated deal terms between the buyer and seller to make sure it was fundable. Santander put debt into the business to fund the MBO. It's a relatively small business but a big local employer, with a couple of hundred staff providing local councils with facilities management services. They aspire to grow the business and the MBO allows them to do that." Rob Holmes, Partner, Azets Corporate Finance

The MBO of the Corrigenda Group won Small Deal of the Year


• Terence O'Rourke Employee Ownership Trust

• MBO of Keytek Group

• Team Healthcare Acquisitions sale to Bespoke Health & Social Care

• Ski Weekends acquisition of Flexiski from Hotel Plan UK

• Growth capital investment into Outpost VFX

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

Winner: Lucketts Travel sale to National Express Group

Lucketts Travel sale to National Express Group won the Mid-Range Deal of the Year

"It's fantastic that we have been recognised with this award. Lucketts was a local family business and we know the Solent deals adviser community well, so it is nice to receive the award. The pandemic happened after we sold the business to National Express who have looked after the company and our staff, which was really important to us. They held it in 'hibernation' until the time was right to come out of it. They have a fantastic team and it's going to be a really good business going forward." Ian Luckett, formerly Managing Director of Lucketts Group


• Onecom acquisition of Olive

• Halo Accident Repair Centre sale to IRS Group

• Talley Group sale to Direct Healthcare Group

• Imperial Car Supermarkets Group sale to Cazoo

• MBO of GHG Solutions

Large Deal of the Year (over £50m)

Winner: Solent Global merger with Humble Group

“Shoosmiths was the legal advisor for the shareholders of Solent Group, providing corporate finance advice and debt advisory services on the transaction. We’ve worked with Solent Group and its management team for around 15 years, so it was a pleasure to complete the transaction on their behalf. The transaction accelerates Solent Group’s growth plans to be a market leader in its field, with the aim of creating £1 billion of market share by 2025, as well as creating potential synergies between the various operating companies.” Sean Wright, Corporate Partner, Shoosmiths

Solent Global's merger with Humble Group was recognised


• CT Automotive Group IPO

• Data Techniques sale to North Group

• MBO of Austin

• Harwood Wealth Management Group takeover by Hurst Point Group

Management Team of the Year

Winner: CT Automotive Group

CT Automotive Group won Management Team of the Year

"Our previous MBO was step one and our IPO in December 2021 was step two in our plan. The IPO was a more challenging process because Covid-19 impacted the business, so explaining it to investors was a little bit more difficult than it might have been before the pandemic. The IPO allowed us to recapitalise our balance sheet, clear off debts that we were servicing from the MBO and it has put us in a position that as soon as the automotive market recovers we can grow." David Wilkinson, CFO, CT Automotive


• Halo Accident Repair Centre

• Haskins Garden Centres

• LeMieux

• National Express Transport Solutions (formerly Lucketts Travel)

• Onecom

• Serocor

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