Channel Islands firm set for merger

The marriage of Mourant du Feu and Ozannes will create the third-largest offshore law firm, and give the combined entity an expanded presence in a region that is seeing the arrival of more funds and managers.

Channel Islands law firms Mourant du Feu and Ozannes will merge their existing businesses by the middle of this year, creating the third-largest offshore law firm in terms of partner numbers.

The new firm, which will be called Mourant Ozannes, will be run by a management committee led by new group managing partner Jonathan Rigby, currently managing partner or Mourant. Peter Ferbrache of Ozannes will become senior partner and Ian James of Mourant will become chairman.

Mourant, which has offices in the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and London, specialises in providing offshore legal services to fund promoters and financial institutions, while in December it agreed to sell its Mourant International Finance Administration division – which handles fund and company administration – to State Street. Ozannes was established in Guernsey, but has a significant presence in Jersey as well.

The merger between the two firms will strengthen their position in a region that is poised for further growth in the next few years. A 2009 report by the International Monetary Fund ranked Jersey as one of the best jurisdictions in terms of regulation and supervision, while an increasing number of hedge fund and private equity managers have said they are seeking to follow the lead of Terra Firma’s Guy Hands in relocating to Guernsey to escape tax hikes in the UK.

Proposed EU regulations which may be passed this year – potentially leading to increased disclosure requirements and possible restrictions on compensation – may also lead more EU-domiciled funds to relocate to the Channel Islands.