Titan of takeovers

Brisbane’s largest law firm McCullough Robertson Lawyers oversaw the biggest on market corporate takeover in Australia’s history last year, but despite an optimistic outlook, chairman Brett Heading will be surprised if the firm’s revenue grows at all in 09/10.

BRISBANE’S largest law firm McCullough Robertson Lawyers oversaw the biggest on market corporate takeover in Australia’s history last year, but despite an optimistic outlook, chairman Brett Heading will be surprised if the firm’s revenue grows at all in 09/10.

“I anticipate it being a tough year. With the boom time big ticket jobs there just aren’t as many as there used to be, that’s the reality of it,” says Heading.

“I have a simple philosophy that the key to success is to give good advice quickly by interested and interesting lawyers – in difficult times you need good industry knowledge and to offer proactive advice in what is undoubtedly the most testing time since the 89 recession.”

McCullough Robertson’s revenue grew by 4 per cent last financial year to $74 million, representing the smallest increase in 10 years, despite several mergers and acquisitions, successful capital raisings, as well as a strong presence in tax law and agribusiness.
“We acted for Queensland Gas in their expansion phase and oversaw the takeover with British Gas, which was the largest on market takeover in Australian history,” says Heading.

“We advised Whitehaven Coal in their proposed reverse takeover of Gloucester Coal, Wilson HTM’s acquisition of Next Financial and GBST Holdings’ acquisition of Coexis Limited.

“We’ve acted for a number of companies in significant capital raisings. There was Macarthur Coal for $190 million, Ausenco for $90 million, Panaust raised $322 million, as well as a swag of small companies in the life sciences area.”

Heading says the company has been involved in the full gamut of agribusiness as well and has been very prominent in the business community, with a strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility.

“We’re full service so we do everything other than criminal and family law. We have a very strong revenue group and without doubt the largest group in Queensland that deals with tax duty and income tax – I’d be surprised if we’re not the largest one on the east coast,” he says.

“We’ve been around a long time – we were founded in 1926 and we’re the largest firm in Queensland. We operate in a number of key areas for the Brisbane and Queensland economy and we also have a strong community outlook with our pro bono practice and community programs.”

McCullough Robertson has 372 staff and while the firm pre-empted the downturn with a hiring freeze in May last year, Heading remains cogniscent of recognising and rewarding talented employees.

“And we’ve got the quality partners to show for it – whilst we are treading carefully and I think most businesses will be, we’re confident in our outlook,” he says.

“Natural attrition has reduced our numbers and we’ve had 10 redundancies, so through a combination of admin staff and a few lawyers our numbers have declined by about 40.”

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