ONE of the largest law and estate agency firms in the west of Scotland has been put up for sale after a fall-out between its two female founding partners.
Their dispute is so extreme that a judicial factor was appointed by the Court of Session to administer the affairs of the business. Tom Hughes, the judicial factor, has now put the firm - Pacitti Jones - on the market, to be sold ''as a whole or in lots''.
The business was founded more than 17 years ago, and now employs about 50 people who can expect to be served redundancy notices as a matter of course.
The two partners - Gina Pacitti and Collette Boyle, who studied law together at Strathclyde University - are said to have fallen out in a clash of personalities amid disagreements over the way forward for the firm.
The women have been close friends over many years as well as business partners.
A legal insider warned that their failure to resolve differences over dividing up the firm will now cost them thousands of pounds, because a judicial factor had to be appointed to manage the business.
The women, both single and in their early 40s, are sole partners in the firm. They are said to earn more than (pounds) 150,000 a year from the business, believed to have annual turnover of more than (pounds) 1m.
Their personal and professional relationships have come under increasing pressure during a period of expansion. The firm, which employs seven associates, has offices in Glasgow, at Burnside and Hillhead, and others in Bishopbriggs, Kirkintilloch and Rutherglen.
It claims as both solicitors and estate agents to have created ''a property marketing service that no conventional estate agent can match''.
Last year, it even sold a single-car garage in Glasgow for (pounds) 9000 - more than three times the purchase price of (pounds) 2500 less than two years previously.
Ms Boyle was said yesterday to be ''on holiday''. According to staff, Ms Pacitti continues to work out of the office in Glasgow's west end, but yesterday was ''not available'' along with all her associates. Legal sources described her as a ''very tough, very commercial, and very driven businesswoman''.
The judicial factor works for Glasgow-based chartered accountants Gerber Landa and Gee, but is best known as chairman of Partick Thistle football club. He could not be contacted yesterday. Adverts for the sale emphasise that he is seeking ''serious inquiries only'' from interested parties.
Ann McKechin, the MP for Maryhill, was a non-equity partner in Pacitti Jones between 1990 and 2000 before pursuing a Westminster career.
She said yesterday: ''I have not been involved with the business since leaving more than three years ago, and so cannot comment on what has happened since. I am saddened at the potential loss of jobs in what has been a very successful and profitable business for many years.''
Mark Hordern, spokesman for GSPC, said: ''Pacitti Jones is an important member. We understand there has been significant interest from potential buyers. That is a testament to the success of the business.''