LESS than 20 months ago, senior partners of law firm Lees Lloyd Whitley (LLW) invited Wirral civic leaders to help open its new offices at Riverside Park.
It was meant to mark the start of the next phase for a firm that can trace its history back to 1820.
But now the building’s owners are pursuing a senior partner for an unpaid rent bill of £53,000 after the firm’s collapse.
Riverside Park, the owners of the 26,000 sq ft, three-storey office block, has submitted a bankruptcy petition at Birkenhead County Court against LLW’s business development partner Frank Rogers.
A charge has been lodged against his home in Leigh Road, West Kirby.
Mr Rogers is a recognisable figure among the Wirral business community and was the chair of the Wirral International Business Park Group and a member of the Wirral Business Forum.
He said: “All matters relating to Lees Lloyd Whitley are being handled by the administrators and we are co-operating with them fully.”
The News understands LLW took out a 10-year lease at Riverside Park, part of Wirral International Business Park, when it moved in at the start of 2008, in a deal worth more than £3m.
The firm had employed 150 staff at the time of its move last year, but had since substantially reduced its staffing levels.
Last night a spokesperson for Riverside Park would only confirm that it had lodged the petition but was not prepared to discuss the case.
It was revealed last week the firm had debts of £3m. LLW was not a limited liability partnership (LLP) which means that the partners are responsible for the firm’s debts.
Jonathan Booth and Robert Rutherford, partners of Liverpool insolvency practitioners Parkin S Booth, were appointed last week to handle LLW’s administration.
However, their appointment came after the firm was broken up and the company which remains is only a shell.
The largest part of the demerger was the transfer of most of LLW’s commercial department and its probate work – led by four partners, including Mr Rogers – to join Chester-based Oliver & Co.
Personal injury and insolvency work has been transferred to St Helens firm Keith Park Solicitors, along with LLW’s managing partner Graham Smith.
Its equity release, conveyancing and remortgage work moved to David Roberts & Co, in Wallasey.
Just nine other staff from a workforce of more than 70 transferred to one of those firms.
LLW was created in 1988 through the merger of Whitley & Co with two other firms which also dated from the 19th century – Wirral firm Lees Moore and Price and Liverpool firm Edward Lloyd & Co.
In the early 1990s, LLW operated a large branch office structure but chose to centralise the business with its last branches in Prenton and Liverpool city centre closing in 2007 and 2008 respectively.