Smith & Williamson hires Russell Cook as Director Corporate Finance

15 July 2016

Smith & Williamson hired corporate finance advisory expert Russell Cook as a Director within its Corporate Finance team. Cook joins the firm’s London office, having previously worked at Panmure Gordon, also based in London.

Prior to joining Smith & Williamson, Russell Cook worked at Panmure Gordon as a Director of Investment Banking – responsibilities included financial advisory to AIM and fully listed companies. Previously, from 2002 until 2015, Cook worked at Charles Stanley Securities where he held the role of Director of Corporate Finance, and, from 1998 to 2002, he was a Director of Corporate Finance at Teather & Greenwood. Cook graduated from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Russell Cook - Smith & Williamson

Cook joins the firm’s Corporate Finance team as a Director, and is based in London. Cook’s more than 30 years of industry experience, with a wide range of UK stakeholders, will be leveraged by the firm as it broadens its corporate finance advisory practice.

Azhic Basirov, Managing Director of Capital Markets at Smith & Williamson's Corporate Finance practice, says that the firm is “delighted” to welcome Russell on board. Basirov adds, “As we grow our corporate finance business it’s vital that we increase our coverage of fund managers and investment houses within the industry. Russell brings with him long established relationships as well as valued input as we grow and diversify our corporate finance business.”

Russell remarks, “The opportunity to join Smith & Williamson was a welcome one. Smith & Williamson is a highly regarded organisation which believes that the relationship with the client is paramount. It is noted, across the industry, the number of the firm’s long term clients who had gone on to achieve sustained growth and I am keen to help further develop the client service offering.”


8 tips for successfully buying or selling a distressed business

18 April 2019

Embarking on the sale of a business is one of the most challenging experiences a management team can undertake. Even serial dealmakers acknowledge that the transaction process can be gruelling, exposing management to a level of scrutiny and challenge through due diligence that can be distinctly uncomfortable.

So, to embark on a sale process when a business is in distress is twice as challenging. While management is urgently trying to keep the business afloat, they are simultaneously required to prepare it for scrutiny by potential acquirers. Tim Wainwright, an experienced Transactions Partner with Eight Advisory, says that this dual requirement means sellers of distressed businesses must focus on presenting their business in a way that supports buyers in identifying value, whilst simultaneously being open about the causes of distress. 

According to Wainwright, sellers of distressed businesses should focus on eight key aspects to ensure they are as well prepared as possible:

  • Cash: In a distressed situation cash truly is king. Accurate forecasting and day-by-day cash balances are often required to ensure any buyer is confident that scarce cash reserves are under proper control. 
  • Equity story and turnaround plan: Any buyer is going to want to understand the proposed turnaround strategy: how is the business going to enact its recovery and what value can be created that means the distressed business is worth saving? Clear presentation of this strategy is essential.
  • The business model: Clear demonstration of how the business model generates cash is required, with analysis that shows how financial performance will respond to key changes – whether these are positive improvements (e.g., increases in revenue) or emerging risks that further damage the business.  Demonstrating the business is resilient enough to cope with these changes can go a long way to assuring investors there is a viable future.
  • Management team: As outlined above, this is a challenging process. The management team are in it together and need to be consistent in presenting the turnaround. Above all, the team needs to be open about the underlying causes that resulted in the distressed situation arising.  A defensive management team who fail to acknowledge root causes of distress are unlikely to resolve the situation.

8 tips for successfully buying or selling a distressed business

  • Financing: More than in any traditional transaction, distressed businesses need to understand the impact on working capital. The distressed situation frequently results in costs rising as credit insurance becomes more difficult to obtain or as customers and suppliers reduce credit. Understanding how these unwind will be important to the potential investors.
  • Employees: Any restructuring programme can be difficult for employees. Maintaining open communications and respecting the need for consultation is the basic requirement. In successful turnarounds, employees are often deeply engaged in designing and developing solutions. Demonstrating a supportive, flexible employee base can often support the sale process.
  • Structuring: Understanding how to structure the business for the proposed acquisition can add significant value. Where possible, asset sales may be preferred, enabling buyers to move forward with limited liabilities. However, impacts on customers, employees and other stakeholders need to be considered.
  • Off balance sheet assets: In the course of selling a distressed business, additional attention is often given to communicating the value of items that may not be fully valued in the financial statements. Brands, intellectual property and historic tax losses are all examples of items that may be of significant value to a purchaser. Highlighting these aspects can make an acquisition more appealing.

“These eight focus areas can help to sell a distressed business and are important in reaching a successful outcome, but it should be noted that it will remain a challenging process,” Wainwright explains. 

With recent studies indicating that the valuation of distressed business is trending north. With increased appetite from buyers who are accustomed to taking on these situations, it is likely that more distressed deals will be seen in the coming months. “Preparing management teams as best as possible for delivering these will be key to ensuring these businesses can pass on to new owners who can hopefully drive the restructuring required to see these succeed,” Wainwright added.