Chester-based professional services firm Knights has acquired Darbys Solicitors and is committed to recruit 100 new posts this year.

Knights, of Cuppin Street, now employs more than 300 professionals across seven offices in Stoke on Trent, Chester, Cheltenham, Derby, Hale, Oxford and Colchester.

The acquisition was principally funded with the backing of Allied Irish Bank (AIB) (GB) who, in the last 18 months, has become Knights’ established banking partner.

It further builds on AIB’s support of key transactions, including consolidations, in the legal sector.

Senior relationship manager at AIB (GB) Mike Rogers said: “Allied Irish Bank (GB) is delighted to have assisted Knights in this deal.

“This exemplifies our commitment to help business owners achieve their goals and the value our customers place on their business relationships with us.”

As part of Knights’ plans to grow its national team by a further 100 professionals this year, 50 of the new recruits will be based in Oxford.

CEO at Knights David Beech said: “The acquisition of Darbys is the first in Knights’ journey to create a firm that can thrive in a competitive sector and become a leading regional professional services businesses in the UK.

“This is our largest acquisition to date and will see Knights adapt to the ever-changing legal and professional services industry,” he said. “We have a long-term plan to invest in more professional services so we can grow our portfolio and deliver an even better service to our clients.

“Regional accountancy groups, tax specialists and real estate advisory organisations located outside of the major cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, are the main focus, but we remain a flexible and adaptable business that can respond to the needs of the changing market place.

“This deal has allowed Knights to achieve its targets a year early. Now is the time to be looking forward at how we can provide integrated solutions to our clients with legal services being part of a wider offering.

“Future acquisitions and the recruitment of 100 talented professionals who seek to join a functional business and cohesive culture are integral to our ambitious growth plans.

“We are a modern business which is interested in investing in quality people that share our vision to move away from the equity partner model.”

The acquisition is seen as one of the biggest transactions within the regional legal scene in the last 12 months, creating one of the largest independent professional services firms in the UK.