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Vin Murria gone from CSG/IRIS group

We've been trying to get an official statement all day – hence this late posting – but this is the story so far…

Vin Murria, the controversial chief executive of the CS Group – and more recently the M&A Officer for the IRIS Group which acquired CSG last month – has gone. She apparently finalised negotiations on her departure package late last night (3rd July). So what happens next? David England, previously with CSG's Legal Division and before that Solution 6, becomes chief executive of the IRIS Group's not-for-profit and business solutions division, while a new person (believed to be Arlene Adams, previously with Valista and before that Sun Microsystems) has been recruited to take over as chief executive of the compliance & legal division (which includes AIM, Laserform, Mountain and Videss) on the 9th July.

Despite plenty of rumours to the contrary, Ian Knox remains as a director of the Mountain group – he told us earlier today that he is “too young to retire” – as does his co-director at Mountain Steve Kendrick. (The word on the street is CSG acquired Mountain for around £9m.) And, Barbara Firth, previously the FD of CSG, now holds a senior M&A post within the IRIS Group.

As soon as we have a formal statement from IRIS, we will publish it but in the meantime the immediate reaction seems to have been a mixture of sadness, particular at one legal IT supplier that thought it was going to be acquired for £6m by Vin Murria later this summer, and jubilation, with the MD of another company on the phone to us singing a certain cruel line of a song from The Wizard of Oz. (OK, it was “ding, dong, the witch is dead”.) We've also had a couple of people say they hope they don't win a Supplier Personality of the Year Award at next year's Legal Technology Awards (nothing to do with The Orange Rag) as Vin Murria only lasted a little over 5 months after she received it earlier this year. (Perhaps they'll rename it the “I'm Out of Here Award” – Simon Price won it the previous year and promptly left Aderant to join Recommind.)

Seriously, the woman may have scared the living daylights out of much of the UK legal IT industry but she deserves credit for having done more to change its structure in 12 months than anyone else managed over the previous 24 years and we wish her well for the future. As to how the industry now pans out, well that remains to be seen.

7 replies on “Vin Murria gone from CSG/IRIS group”

So the visionary who managed to purchase four legal suppliers, with all of the previous owners before Mountain taking the cash and running for the hills, has in turn been pushed out (or did she jump?).
What does she deserve credit for?
The one thing she has failed to do to the legal IT industry is “change its structure”. We still have four separate companies, often tendering for the same business, sometimes in competition with each other. Four support departments, four development teams and of course, it appears, four visions for the future.
Anybody with deep enough pockets can buy anything they want. It is what they do with it after purchase that counts. We have heard about how wonderful they are for making all of these purchases. It is time we heard about what they intend to do with their new toys; or will it all be sold again to make more money for private equity.

I have to say that as a user of an acquired companies system I am at odds with Mr Christian’s final statement. All we have seen is a situation whereby we (and other users) have had considerable concern over the so called ‘future vision’.
The legal profession has had first hand experience of many of the private equity deals that have been hitting the headlines of late. We await with interest as to how IRIS wish to take the legal aspect of their business forward. However, it would appear that all that has happened so far is that Ms Murria has acquired a number of legal companies with other people’s money and left them as separate entities within one group. Who has benefitted? It would appear that a handful of already well off Directors of legal systems suppliers, but precious few others. The customers and staff of these organisations are now left with a significant debt they didn’t have before and I wonder who is ultimately going to pay for this……?

I agree completely!
From the start of the whole CSG takeover frenzy they spouted the same line about wanting to take the industry forward blah blah blah!
I think it's now clear to everyone who has been watching this that it's all about the money and nothing else. There has been very little regard for the companies and employees affected by this.
“ding dong the witch is dead….”

Ian Knox leaves by 31 July despite what he might say to the contrary.

Posted by Simon Hill… Having made our previous statement regarding TFB rejecting a bid from CSG last year and our desire to remain independent, this latest update from CSG/IRIS only serves in our view to confirm the position we took; only a specialist independent company, with a clear vision and strategy, can best deliver the exacting requirements our clients & the profession demand.
There will be many individuals, law firms and suppliers who will find this latest twist intriguing. In the last 15 months or so, 4 companies have been purchased by CSG who went on to make statements regarding their vision of the future of legal IT. It now appears that a few weeks after the merger, the principle architect of this strategy has left. This must raise a number of concerns for the clients and staff of the acquired companies. If nothing else, it would indicate that the new owners are not committed to the same vision as their predecessors.
IRIS is a well respected and professional organisation yet there will be an increasing number of people who now question the strategy behind the spending spree of acquisitions within the legal sector by the company they have just merged with. If the architect left after such a short period what was the motivation behind those acquisitions? Increasingly it would appear that the market views it as a rapid vehicle to facilitate an exit via private equity. What remains for users, only time will tell. If the figures reported in the press are to be believed, approximately £100m of the £500m debt is associated with Legal. IRIS state that they have 3,750 law firm contracts which equates to just under £27,000 of debt per CSG customer, a sobering thought.
Simon Hill
Managing Director

The stunning thing in all of this is the amount of money being made by people that do not actually do or make anything.
As I understand it the four legal companies in IRIS / CSG were purchased as follows:
AIM – £5.3m
Videss – £7m
Laserform – £5m
Mountain – £9m
Therefore all of these businesses were purchased in the last 15 months for a total of approximately £26m. Now we might take the view that the directors of these businesses have done very well out of this (which of course they have) but in most cases, they have built up their companies over many many years.
If Simon Hill’s observations on debt are correct HG Capital (remember them) and CSG have managed to turn £26m into £100m in about 2 months simply by selling the companies to somebody else. I think we can all guess who is going to be paying for all of this in the end.
Nice work if you can get it!

Ian Knox has phoned to say that if he really is going by the end of the month, he wishes someone would tell him so he could rearrange his holiday plans.

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