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Blue Rubicon Acquires UK Public Affairs Firm Open Road
Arun Sudhaman
Holmes Report
President/Editor-in-Chief

Blue Rubicon Acquires UK Public Affairs Firm Open Road

Blue Rubicon is to acquire UK public affairs firm Open Road, creating a communications consultancy of 200 staffers.

Arun Sudhaman

LONDON—Blue Rubicon is to acquire UK public affairs firm Open Road, as it looks to broaden its policy capabilities across international markets.

The deal sees Blue Rubicon acquire 100% of Open Road, which was founded in 2007 and had grown to a fee income of $3.7m by 2012. That number has since increased by a further 15% to more than $4m for its current financial year.

Open Road now employs 21 people, working on such clients as Coca-Cola, National Grid, Vodafone and Prudential. The combined businesses will amount to nearly 200 staffers.

The move is the latest step in Blue Rubicon's aggressive expansion plan, funded by the sale of a majority stake in the business to private equity firm LDC in late 2012.

Last year, Blue Rubicon opened offices in Qatar and Dubai, with further geographic expansion expected in 2014. The addition of Open Road, Blue Rubicon CEO Fraser Hardie told the Holmes Report, indicates Brussels and Washington DC as likely future destinations.

"Reputation risk is high on the agenda," said Hardie. "As part of that, regulatory and policy-based risk is very important. It’s increasingly taking up the time of chairmans and CEOs who are looking to protect their licence to operate. We are looking to make a very natural step which is to deepen our capabilities on the policy and regulatory side."

Open Road will retain its separate branding and location "for the forseeable future", said CEO Graham McMillan. The two firms have a history of collaborating on clients, including — currently — Coca-Cola. 

"We can take what we’ve built, which we’re extremely proud of, but we can we work with Blue Rubicon on a bigger stage and bigger platform," added McMillan. "We can also expand internationally which is not something we could have done on our own."

The value of the acquisition was undisclosed, but does not include an earn-out. Instead, said Hardie and McMillan, the deal involves an upfront cash payment along with share options in Blue Rubicon. 

Open Road's leadership team, which also includes chairman Nick DeLuca and directors Martin Le Jeune and Rebecca Reilly, join the Blue Rubicon board. 

"We are two very compatible businesses," said Hardie. "Crucially, we are independent of ownership and spirit. Both are founded on a very strong view from the leadership that you need to be innovative, that you need to nurture and grow talent, and you need to build the business based on knowledge."

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