In a move which caught the market off-guard in the Solent region, commercial property consultancies Vail Williams and Hughes Ellard merged in June to create a regional powerhouse of property advice. Now, three months on, Mike Greenwood, regional managing partner for the Solent region, and Gary Jeffries, then managing director of Hughes Ellard, talk about the deal’s rationale – and why it will benefit clients.
This year has marked the dawn of a new era for national property consultancy Vail Williams. With an ambitious strategy for growth which has seen the firm grow both its staff and client base nationally, when the opportunity arose to join forces with a like-minded competitor in the Solent region, it was too good to miss.
Both firms boasted respected reputations in the business communities across Southampton and Portsmouth, both had strong specialist service offers, and, more importantly, both shared the same passionate work ethic and approach to client service and people development.
It was a match made in heaven and one that would allow both businesses to grow together as one stronger entity under the Vail Williams brand.
This in turn, allowed the enlarged team of property experts to offer unrivalled experience and service to clients throughout the Solent and beyond, as
Mike Greenwood, regional managing partner for Vail Williams’ Solent offices explained: “We believed Hughes Ellard would be a very good fit with our business and this indeed is proving to be the case. Our service lines have been further strengthened across property development appraisal, search and acquisition, valuation, rent review and lease renewal, as well as asset management, building consultancy, disposals and investment advice.
“By creating the largest transactional team in the Solent region, we have set ourselves apart from our competitors and are able to offer our clients an unprecedented service through our combined knowledge and expertise.”
Greenwood, who worked as a surveyor at Hughes Ellard for four years before joining Vail Williams, added: “As with any large business undertaking, there are concerns over whether you’re doing the right thing, but one thing we were certain of was that we would be acting in the best interests of our clients. Something which, following excellent feedback from clients since the merger, has proven to be the case.”
In the past two years, Vail Williams has completed acquisitions of two other businesses – business rates specialists Bissett Moffit Hill and Ruddle Merz – with further plans for similar growth in the future, as Greenwood explained: “We intend to build on this growth, both in the Solent as well as nationally, with the potential to roll out similar acquisition models across our other regions in Gatwick, Thames Valley, London and Birmingham.”
While the merger became official at the beginning of June, planning had been underway since December, when Gary Jeffries, then the managing director of Hughes Ellard, first contacted Vail Williams’ managing partner, Matthew Samuel-Camps.
Hughes Ellard, with 26 staff, had grown organically to the point where it either went on the acquisition trail or joined forces with a larger business.
Jeffries explained: “We know our sector inside out and we came to the conclusion that only one firm would be the perfect match to drive the business forward. Hence the call to Matthew at Vail Williams, who we knew had ambitious growth plans.”
Hughes Ellard’s four owner-directors – Jeffries, Russell Mogridge, Carl Walker and Nik Cox – have all taken up leadership positions and have joined Vail Williams’ partnership.
“We are wholly committed to ensuring Vail Williams remains the go-to consultancy for landlords and occupiers of commercial space in the Solent region,” Jeffries added. “This is about providing market-leading advice for clients, with our highly knowledgeable and personable team helping them grow their businesses profitably.”
There are now 50 people in Vail Williams’ Solent team, with 30 at Savannah House in Ocean Village, Southampton, and 20 at Lakeside North Harbour, Portsmouth, and plans to double the office space at Portsmouth.