£7m offer turned down by the Beagles

Seven Million Note

Following on from some very useful comments from our regular contributors earlier today, there are a couple of very interesting online articles about their new venture and what an eye opener they are! Rather than comment on them, you will find the full text of the articles together with their links so you can see for yourselves what they are saying.

£7 million offer rejected

The Beagles are saying that they turned down a cool £7 million pounds for the sake of keeping the site as it is, because the offerors could  not tell them what exactly would happen to the site. Well, if you are buying a forum, you are buying their user base and the resources posted on it, not the domain name which in itself would be nearly worthless. They would hardly remove the forum and leave just a comparison site or something else in its place, not when they’ve paid that sum for a forum with 70,000 members. One look at Money Saving Expert (MSE) will show how little it has changed since it was acquired by Money Supermarket in 2012.

Beagle values

If the Beagles are so much into their values, then why on earth are they running a price comparison site that features claims management companies (CMCs) as well as debt management companies, some of which charge a whooping 50% of your DMP payments as fees? These were the very companies the Beagles always tried to fight! The ethos of Legal Beagles had always been to empower people to reclaim PPI and manage their debts by themselves, with the help, resources and guidance provided on the forum.

Legal Futures Article

Legal Beagles, a consumer rights forum, has launched a comparison website using its own research on fixed fees to decide how law firms are listed.

Kate Briscoe, chief executive of Legal Beagles, said the forum spent six months researching firms offering fixed fees for family and private client work before launching LBcompare on New Year’s Day.

She said that only around 500 firms were “clear and transparent” in publishing fixed fees on their websites, rather than expecting consumers to call them to find out a fixed fee.

Ms Briscoe said LBcompare rewarded them by giving them an entry in colour on the website, rather than in grey, and a free trial during the next six months, while the site remains in ‘beta’ mode.

“We want this to become a resource for consumers,” she said. “We do not want to support a race to the bottom.

“We want to make sure that people understand that a simple online will, which could cost as little as £38.50, is not suitable for those with complicated needs.”

Following its formal launch this summer, LBcompare will charge law firms a flat rate to actively participate on the size, depending on their size. Fixed fee legal services for conveyancing and personal injury will also be featured.

“We want to move away from the referral fee method – at no point will we ever do that. Unlike other websites, we will never ask consumers for their name, email, or any other data.”

All law firms are listed, with entries based on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s records, and all of them can be reviewed and rated by consumers.

Ms Briscoe set up Legal Beagles with Sharon Coleman in 2007, which has expanded to a point where it has 70,000 members and receives 150,000 unique visitors a month.

Ms Briscoe said a private equity firm offered her and Ms Coleman £7m last year for majority ownership of the forum, but they declined because they “could not guarantee what would happen to it”.

She said that, unlike the forum, the comparison website was a fully commercial venture, backed by £350,000 of investment from seven private individuals.

Ms Briscoe said Legal Beagles had also held meetings with Irwin Mitchell, Minster Law and Kevin Rousell, the claims management regulator based at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

She said that, along with law firms, the website listed claims management companies (CMCs) providing PPI services and regulated by the MoJ. Ms Briscoe said LBcompare aimed to analyse CMCs’ ratings on the internet and consolidate them into a single rating of its own.

“We want to create a one-stop shop so consumers can see whether a company is dodgy or not. A handful of very good companies provide PPI services.

“Claims companies have never been listed in this way before, and their fees vary from £100 to £462 to reclaim the same amount of PPI.”

LBcompare also provides information on debt management services and law centres.

Ms Briscoe was formerly based at Brighton law firm Howlett Clarke, where she worked mainly on consumer credit cases, particularly involving bank charges.

The Law Society Gazette Article

The founders of a consumer rights website today branched out to create a legal comparison platform allowing users to browse and compare the cost of legal services.

Legal Beagles says LBcompare will offer consumers the chance to compare fixed-fee costs for services such as divorce, wills and probate and powers of attorney, without the need to register or disclose personal data.

The website has information on legal services provided by all Solicitors Regulation Authority-registered firms and sole practitioners, with the law service providers able to pay to enhance the prominence and content of their default listing, or create their own profile through a flat-rate subscription based on their size.

The site will also feature law centres, debt management providers, credit unions and PPI claims management companies.

The Legal Beagles website has been operating on a not-for-profit basis since it was founded in 2007 by friends Kate Briscoe (pictured) and Sharon Coleman.

Briscoe, a former consumer credit litigator with Brighton firm Howlett Clarke, said traffic figures for the site have reached a point where its private investors believe it can be a successfully commercial price-comparison site.

‘The idea for LBcompare evolved from constant requests about how and where to find a solicitor for particular legal issue and how much it might cost,’ said Briscoe.

‘LBcompare will provide the answers in the same familiar format as the mainstream comparison websites for insurance and financial products, except that we’ll include every single provider and not just those who pay us.’

She explained that the venture differed from other legal comparison sites by not relying on what she described as a ‘tired old’ lead-generating or data-harvesting model.

Since its launch in 2007, Legal Beagles has attracted more than two million unique visitors and registers 20,000 new members per year.

Briscoe and Coleman said they rejected an offer from private equity investors in April 2014 to buy a majority shareholding in the forum, to ensure the site remained independent and ethical. The company was estimated at the time to have a total value of £7m.

Is it any wonder they decided to have a good site clearout at the time they were contemplating offers? See The Big Cull.

 

25 Comments

  1. Interested Party says:

    Now let’s say that this offer of £7m is true (yes, let’s all believe in the fairies), right so the offer is there, they would probably have to split it three ways, because we mustn’t forget poor old Nick Spooner the man who’s been funding the site for god knows how long, so he needs a share.
    That is in the region of just over £2m each, come on everyone hands up who would have signed on the dotted line and had it on their toes outta there ? Bearing in mind that Sharon went missing for god knows how long and was only enticed back with the promise of shares and Kate did a disappearing act too, now suddenly they are coming over all holier than though saying that they were worried about its future as they could not ‘guarantee what would happen to it’.
    Sorry but I smell something bad and it’s bulls**t.

    • Legaleaglet says:

      If memory serves me, wasn’t there a rumour going round of selling the site for £35m the year before? If there really was an offer of £7m on the table (and that’s a big IF), the only reason to have turned that one down would be because they reckon the site could be worth more with LB Compare attached to it. That’s the only real possibility of any truth in that statement.

      On a separate note, what happens to all the people who made the site what it is today? Even if they didn’t sell it for £7m (this time), they’ve got private investors on there if the articles are anything to go buy, so this is clearly a money making venture now rather than a free consumer site.

      Legal Beagles wouldn’t even be there, let alone be considered by any investors, without its members. So who ran the site when Sharon was missing and Kate disappeared? I think it was Sapphire who seemed to have full charge of the site and some who didn’t know the full history thought she was one of the site owners.

    • Dignity says:

      Nick Spooner shouldn”t be underestimated. He may be behind the scenes but he’s actually more involved than most people think.

      He’s not quite as gentle as you would think and capable of ruthless tactics when needed!

      • Doh! says:

        He’s a coward and runs away like a coward.

      • Legaleaglet says:

        He does look like a gentle soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly, I reckon Shazza is the ruthless one.

        • Doh! says:

          She’s not wasting her own money is she, because she doesn’t have any. Easy to be ruthless with someone else’s money.

          • Legaleaglet says:

            I can’t see Shazza having it in her to convince $eriou$ inve$tor$ to cough up £350k for LB Compare! That has to be Nick’s work.

        • Jon says:

          My understanding was that it was Nick who banned me when I posted that the owners of LB were exploiting vulnerable users by suggesting they pay to be a VIP. Let’s face it, if any DCA wanted access they would only need to cough up the dosh and read the posts.

          The VIP membership is a con

          • Legaleaglet says:

            Nick banned you? Are you sure it was him? How do you know? It’s not like they ever bother to communicate with those they discard. I’d have thought Nick liked to keep his hands thoroughly clean and blood-free and would leave the slaughtering to his minion Shazza.

            I never thought the VIP area was intended to stop DCAs reading posts. For a start, it’s one of those urban myths that big creditors in general, bother trawling the forums, attempting to match up posters with accounts when they’ve got thousands of them. Furthermore, there’s nothing secret being plotted on LB, the letter or defence will go to the other side anyway so why keep it secret?

            There are other, more valid reasons for privacy, when people are known to belong to a certain forum, for example, by their employers, partners or family members, or people from other sites. Those are the ones who would be reading your posts and would know who you are, not the DCAs. Having said that, £15 a year is a bit much to pay for that privacy and still not enough for LB to make a significant profit, so it’s really neither here nor there, and your stalker (employer, partner, etc.) could also pay the £15 to get in there.

        • Dignity says:

          I’m not sure if you know the extent Nick Spooner went to protect Kate from a nasty man. He does show extreme loyalty to both co-owners.

          • Jon says:

            All I know is that Sharon said it wasn’t her so it was either Kate who was inactive at the time or Nick, they were both included in PMs . I can not remember the exact details and clearly can not access the PM’s any longer but I think it was to do with the bleating of an old man

            I have no idea what Nick was supposed to have done to protect kate and who from . I have never communicated with kate so can not pass comment.

            It is not uncommon for it to be suggested that a member become a VIP to give them more privacy when they have a claim against them , I suspect that the poor vulnerable fools think they will get ‘better’ advice when in actual fact the advice will be narrower as less people will see the posts.

            If you believe what is written on some threads, some solicitors have identified people from their forum posts and in one case supposedly tried to use the fact against them. There is of course the possibility that the thread was a hoax and maybe designed to discourage people from using forums for advice or, dare I say it, to encourage them to sign up as a VIP. Never let it be said that I am anything but cynical hence my distrust of most forums

            T

            • Legaleaglet says:

              Ah, well if she said it wasn’t her… She’s usually proud to ban and I doubt she’d have denied it if it had been her.

              Just a bit odd for Nick to get involved at that level, maybe he just likes to give the impression he’s not directly involved so as to leave Shazza fronting things.

              People who get claims are only told to join VIP when they start getting paranoid. Private areas are a double-edged sword, they get the money from the subscription but anything that’s not accessible to non-members is not indexed by Google either so they wouldn’t want too many threads away from public view. For the posters, in some cases it does limit the advice they get because only VIPs can see their threads, however, Nemesis the Great is a VIP and he knows ALL there is to know about everything and anything so they will still get the best advice there is.

  2. Interested Party says:

    I think you’ll find that they started that rumour themselves to try to cause problems and get rid of people who they believed unworthy of them.
    If I remember rightly Sapphire at one stage was the only one on there who could run the site, luckily Curlyben was also around to help at times, perhaps Kate, Sharon and Nick should recognise their contributions.
    Don’t hold your breath everyone, because it just won’t happen.

    • Legaleaglet says:

      It was all very odd because at the time the site had 35,000 members and that figure seems to have been calculated on those basis, i.e. £1,000 per member. Not that it had any real business meaning because we all know a lot of those members signed up in, say, 2007, posted once or twice (some never even posted), then never went back so that’s not how anyone who has any business sense would price the site. Having said that, it’s too much of a coincidence that the quoted figure should have been £35m, why not £30m or £40m? It does sound like someone’s attempt at making it credible, albeit not a very good one.

      It’s also too much of a coincidence that they should have had a good clearout of people who contributed for years between the time of the £35m and the £7m. Wasn’t Sapphire also one of those who were banned in the Winter of Discontent of 2014? Or did they get rid of her earlier. Don’t seem to be able to find any of her posts or her profile now to see when she last posted.

    • Dignity says:

      Nick has some useful contacts.

      Let’s just say that he did something that everyone thinks other people did :)

      But it wasn’t them.

      Can’t say anything more.

  3. jon says:

    Interesting point in that one article said the site was valued at 7M the other said they had been offered 7M for a controlling share , now many people would consider that to be 51% making the valuation nearer 14M . Lies , damn lies and statistics

    If I was offered even 2M I would be gone, to worry about the quality of advice now is just hypocritical

    I notice there was a comment on the law society gazette suggesting that Quality Solicitors were not to be trusted . The words were ‘Remember Quality Solicitors and look what happened there’

    • Legaleaglet says:

      Interesting point in that one article said the site was valued at 7M the other said they had been offered 7M for a controlling share , now many people would consider that to be 51% making the valuation nearer 14M . Lies , damn lies and statistics

      Yes, it says for a majority share but what difference does it make when we’re talking funny money like the £7m note posted on here? £7m, £14m what? dog bones?

      If I was offered even 2M I would be gone, to worry about the quality of advice now is just hypocritical

      Of course it is, if they’ve trusted their site to Nemesis, why not trust it to some investors who are paying them £7m? Unless of course Nemesis IS one such investor, which would explain a lot!

      I notice there was a comment on the law society gazette suggesting that Quality Solicitors were not to be trusted . The words were ‘Remember Quality Solicitors and look what happened there’

      Which is rather odd when you consider that Howlett Clarke belongs to Quality Solicitors and that’s the firm where Legal Beagles have been referring people to.

  4. Interested Party says:

    Absolutely bang on Jon

  5. revenge says:

    They say they had a buyer April 2014 is that not about the time that there was a mass cull ?

    The blog also states that Kate did bank charges claims through HC, that was not true she did Stat demands set asides and used the forums for getting her new business.

    It also states that there are several investors making up £350k, would be interesting to know which companies are investing and if any of those are in the mix for getting their own companies business otherwise I cannot see what the investors will get out of it. Also, that does not make sense to turn away £7m and then do this comparison site for £350k.

    ‘Briscoe and Coleman said they rejected an offer from private equity investors in April 2014 to buy a majority shareholding in the forum, to ensure the site remained independent and ethical. The company was estimated at the time to have a total value of £7m. – See more at: http://www.legalallsorts.co.uk/7m-offer-turned-down-by-the-beagles/#comment-530

    • Legaleaglet says:

      They say they had a buyer April 2014 is that not about the time that there was a mass cull ?

      Yes, the mass cull was at the end of February that year, when they got rid of a number of long-standing contributors, one of them was Tuttsi who fought against CMCs, Sapphire who had been running the site for years, also PlanB who was the only one who seemed to know about repossessions and housing issues and Inca who posted on family law. I think there were a couple of others who later got reinstated, but it is significant that they should have decided to have a good clearout right at the time negotiations were on the table.

      The blog also states that Kate did bank charges claims through HC, that was not true she did Stat demands set asides and used the forums for getting her new business.

      Yes, she did mostly SDs because at that time the creditors were issuing lots of them but one of the articles above has a link to this other one where Kate brags about the Foster-Brunell bank charges case which was also through Legal Beagles. Web forum drives QS firm’s consumer credit growth What a difference a year makes, uh? Back in August 2014 Kate was “swamped with work” as part of the consumer credit team. All that is now just a distant memory so they need something else to brag about.

  6. John says:

    I have never read so much utter rubbish in my life. Who are they trying to kid here exactly? Who thought up this story? Do they seriously expect everyone to believe they turned down £7m because they are just all round good eggs! They wouldn’t be offered £7 and if they were, they would take it since it is £6.99 more than it is worth.

  7. revenge says:

    Kate brags about the Foster-Brunell bank charges case – See more at: http://www.legalallsorts.co.uk/7m-offer-turned-down-by-the-beagles/#comment-534

    I have not actually read up on this case but know it will be more to do with PT and Tom Brennan working on it rather than Kate.

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