Finding its voice

January 2, 2019

With regular instructions from around the world and a stellar client list, accountants Leathers has built a reputation among many as the go-to tax adviser. But despite its huge achievements, the business has never shouted about its success – until now. Managing partner Michael Leather tells North East Times why 2019 marks the start of a new era for the business

For almost 30 years, Leathers has quietly gone about its business.

From its offices in Newcastle, Durham and more recently Harrogate, the team has amassed a client base that could easily be mistaken for that of a Big Four firm. Acting for entrepreneurs, major businesses, property investors and high net worth individuals and families, not just in the UK but around the world, Leathers has built a reputation that many firms could only dream of.

With the vast majority of its work coming from personal recommendation, referral and repeat business from long-standing clients, and being widely known for its ability to solve the kinds of complex tax problems that leave many other firms baffled, Leathers has plenty to shout about – but until recently has chosen not to, despite its many successes and rapid growth since its foundation in 1990.

However, after three decades of growing quietly, Leathers is now open in its ambition and in its desire to become even more dominant in its field, where its combination of outstanding tax expertise and unrivalled bespoke client service have truly set it apart in the crowded accountancy marketplace.

So what is behind Leathers’ new-found desire to be public with its ambition? Certainly its performance during 2018 is a factor in that. Having won a series of significant new clients around the world, achieving a surge in turnover, successfully expanding into Yorkshire, and winning Best Small Firm at the North East Accountancy Awards at the first time of entry, the past 12 months for Leathers have been some of its most successful yet.

And with strategic plans for further growth and expansion during 2019 already in place – supported by the relocation of its flagship Newcastle base from Cale Cross House into premium office space at 2 Collingwood Street – the firm’s outlook has never felt more positive.

Michael Leather, founder and managing partner of Leathers, says while he is hugely proud of his team and the achievements of the firm, its success and reputation is something he sometimes struggles to realise.

In typically direct fashion, he says: “It’s often hard to realise that you’re doing anything special or to really appreciate how good you are at what you do. We don’t seek praise, we don’t look for attention, we’ve always just got our heads down and got on with the work for our clients.

“Routinely, we do work for clients that to us is just doing our job, but to them it is huge, and often they have come to us because their previous advisers just could not handle it. Recently, I heard some absolutely fantastic feedback about our work and it was just one of those moments where you stop and go ‘whoa’. While we constantly think about our clients and assess whether we are doing the best possible job for them, I don’t think I have, until very recently, considered our advice in terms of its positive impact. As a direct result of our tax advice, our willingness to push the boundaries, and our ability to foresee problems before they even arise, we are having a huge impact on people’s lives and businesses, and are making a difference to their families and their future. We are privileged to be in that position, and for our clients to trust us with such huge responsibility.

“People who know me will know that I am not comfortable with the idea of publicity and I never will be, but it has dawned on me recently that we have so much we could and should be telling people. While our clients know how good we are, there are still many people who have no idea about the levels of expertise we have here and the work we are doing.”

Even from 2018, the highlights are numerous and highly impressive. Amongst the array of major successes, Leathers has achieved for clients, some of the stand-out matters include:

  • Acting for a national housebuilder on three different development schemes, and recovering £500,000 of overpaid VAT on another property development project
  • Advising on the acquisition of two health sector businesses, with a deal consideration of more than £10 million
  • Providing tax advice on the restructure of a £60 million property company
  • Advising on business sales and transactions in Germany, Latvia, Croatia, Canada and Hong Kong
  • Advising on taxation and structuring in the successful buyout of a founder shareholder of a technology business, in a deal worth more than £5 million
  • Providing UK taxation advice on the disposal of a US trading entity and subsequent repatriation of profits to the UK, with a deal consideration of more than £5 million
  • Completing detailed Inheritance Tax work across a range of high-value trusts and estates, including the implications of charitable donations

With a young, dynamic and fast-growing team, which has the capability to complete such highly- complex pieces of work, it is little wonder that
Leathers is looking to the future with confidence. Led by Michael Leather and managing director Tim Mallon – two of the best known and respected tax accountants in the North of England – and with head of private client Ryan Harrison recently being promoted to partner, the business is in great shape to push on with its ambitious plans.

Michael says: “We have a very clear strategic direction and we are now taking those steps forward to develop the business. Our move into 2 Collingwood Street is an important part of that. It is a statement of our ambition and our intent to move our Newcastle operation into such sought-after premises, which also allows us the space we need for further growth and to accommodate the new additions to our team we are already planning to make.

“The past 12 months have been very successful, and that is down to the fantastic efforts and outstanding capability of our team, and the fact they share in our vision for the future of Leathers. 2019 looks to be another exciting year as we continue to build the business further across our three offices and expand our client base locally, nationally and internationally.”


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