LONDON--Blue Rubicon has sold a "significant" stake in the business to private equity firm LDC, the Holmes Report can reveal.
The sale follows a lengthy search for external investment, which saw Blue Rubicon consider numerous options, including a holding company sale, as the UK PR consultancy gears up for international expansion.
The investment from LDC values the firm at approximately £30m and is understood to give the private equity firm a majority shareholding. Blue Rubicon founder and senior partner Fraser Hardie declined to comment on the equity stake but said that LDC will have a 49.5 percent share of voting rights.
Since launching in 1999, Blue Rubicon has grown to become one of the best-performing UK PR firms, reporting fee income of around £15m in 2011. The agency has won a slew of awards in recent years, including Consultancy of the Year recognition from the Holmes Report and PRWeek.
Hardie told the Holmes Report that the deal would safeguard Blue Rubicon's "spirit of independence" in a way that a holding company sale would not.
"This allows us to remain independent in our approach - we can operate the way we know drives innovation and leadership," said Hardie. "That's what we believe will make us successful in the future and we needed fuel to go international, basically. It's a driver of our next stage of growth."
Hardie confirmed that there will be no changes to the Blue Rubicon board or senior management. Alastair Gornall, founder of Consolidated Communications, has been appointed non-executive chairman.
Key Blue Rubicon clients include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, British Gas, Shell, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and Facebook. Hardie said that the firm would now plan its international expansion, focusing on Asia-Pacific, North America and the Middle East.
“This move is being driven by our clients and the ambition of our people," added Hardie. "Our teams remain hungry for growth driven by the firm’s ambition to be the defining agency of our generation."
The deal is the latest to suggest that private equity firms are overcoming an aversion to PR agencies. Last year, Vitruvian Partners purchased a majority stake in College Group, while Phoenix Equity Partners invested in Karmarama.
Other private equity holdings in the agency world include King Worldwide's interests in a number of financial-focused players, including M:Communications, Hallvarsson and Halvarsson, Broadgate and Taylor Rafferty. US public affairs heavyweight Glover Park Group was half-owned by Svoboda Collins while Veronis Suhler Stevenson has held a stake in Loewy, and Beringea has invested in i-level, Steak Media and Gyro Group. Apco’s 2004 MBO, meanwhile, was backed by WindRiver.
“Blue Rubicon is the stand-out company in its sector and we’re delighted to be able to partner with and support the management of the agency as it ventures into new territories and services," said LDC investment director Waqqas Ahmad.
"Our own track record of assisting management teams to branch out beyond these shores made us the perfect fit for the agency and we’re looking forward to working with them in the years to come.”
LDC is part of Lloyds Banking Group and invests in a broad range of sectors. Blue Rubicon was advised by Results International.
"Blue Rubicon’s ambition is to become the defining agency of its generation," said Results International partner Jim Houghton. "Arguably, over its thirteen year history it has achieved much to suggest that it should already enjoy this status."
"The next chapter for the company will be driven by further internationalisation of Blue Rubicon’s core reputation management expertise, building its new strategic consulting and consumer offerings and innovating in digital."