News special: Mergers - Case study - Commission's advice 'was fundamental'

Stephen Cook

The British Institute for Brain Injured Children, based in Bridgwater in Somerset, wanted to merge with a similar charity as part of its strategy of reaching more beneficiaries. Julie Spencer-Cingoz, the institute's chief executive, said she got in touch with the commission and was advised by Richard Black, its head of mergers.

"Initial discussions with Richard proved extremely beneficial in putting forward to the trustees the options with regards to structures," she said. "We were pleasantly surprised at the help we received about amendments to our objectives, which allowed us to produce compatible constitutions.

"There is often dialogue about the commission's role - enforcing versus advising - but I believe this kind of advice is fundamental, and the commission is the appropriate body to give it."

Negotiations were going well, she said, when the 'due diligence' process by solicitors threw up a problem with the other charity's building. "There was a potential contingent liability that could have had an impact on us," she said. "We were advised not to proceed."

She said the decision to abort the merger was distressing for the staff, who were already collaborating. But the experience had not been entirely negative and had taught her charity a lot.

"The commission was like a friend we went to for advice," she said. "It also helped with the legalities."

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