MSQ Partners is continuing to build its agency empire with plans to acquire Be Heard Partnership, the group originally set up by former Engine and Aegis boss Peter Scott in 2015, in a deal worth about £6.2m.
Three Be Heard agencies are included in the deal, MMT Digital, Freemavens and digital business Agenda21, its first acquisition. Meanwhile The Corner, acquired by Be Heard in 2017 for £12m, is to be sold back to its management team.
MSQ’s acquisition, which is subject to shareholder approval, will be backed by private-equity company LDC, which invested an undisclosed “significant” sum in the business last year.
Be Heard has about 240 staff based in London and Uppingham who will transfer over to MSQ; its key clients include Vodafone, Unilever and GSK.
The combined operation will have 765 staff in the UK, Asia and the US, and there will be no redundancies as a result of the change of ownership. In fact, MSQ said the deal will “accelerate growth by building scale and increasing its technical capabilities, particularly in digital tech and data analytics”.
If approved, Agenda21 will be merged with Walk-In Media, the agency launched by former Blue 449 chief executive Simon Davis last year, to strengthen digital media capabilities. Digital transformation agency MMT and data analytics and insight business Freemavens will continue to operate as separate brands.
MSQ said MMT’s revenues have grown from £5m in 2016 to £15m in 2019 and Freemavens’ from £1.9m to £4.3m in the same period, although the group is a far cry from the business Scott had planned in 2016 when he vowed to build a mini-holding company with revenues of £100m. Scott eventually stepped down in September 2018.
Be Heard chief operating officer and MMT Digital co-founder Ben Rudman will be appointed to MSQ Partners’ board as an executive director alongside Kate Howe, who recently joined MSQ from Dentsu Aegis Network UK. MSQ’s board is led by non-executive chairman Charles Courtier.
MSQ Partners chief executive Peter Reid said: “Ben and I have known each other for a number of years and I have followed Be Heard’s progress with interest since its foundation.
“There are a number of benefits to both MSQ and Be Heard that would come out of this proposed deal, particularly in relation to access to a wider portfolio of clients and technical knowledge. This will enable us to accelerate our ability to win more, and larger, clients, grow our base in London and roll-out Be Heard’s capabilities across our global offices.
“Both MSQ and Be Heard have complementary multi-disciplinary offerings and have employee-ownership within their business structures. Should the deal go ahead, Be Heard’s senior managers will invest in the enlarged group as is currently the case in MSQ.”
Rudman added: “The deal with MSQ presents an opportunity for us to grow and invest in our agencies, while exploring ways of bringing even greater value to our existing clients and access to potential clients both in the UK and overseas.”
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