BRUSSELS—Interel, one of the largest public affairs firms based in Europe, has completed a management buyout from its AIM-listed parent Hasgrove.
The deal makes Interel the latest in a lengthening list of public relations firms—following MWW in the US and Freud Communications and Kaizo in the UK—to buy back their independence from publicly-traded holding companies.
According to Interel chief executive Fredrik Lofthagen, the process that culminated in the MBO began earlier this year as Hasgrove considered its own future. “Any AIM-listed companies company needs to think about its future, particularly if it is looking to invest and grow, because AIM is not a very good place to raise capital right now.”
So the sale of Interel—a public affairs business not necessarily central to the firm’s marketing services portfolio—was perhaps the most promising way to raise capital, and while there was interest from third parties, a sale to management was the best option for everyone involved.
So Lofthagen and 17 other members of firm’s management team will own a majority stake in the newly-independent firm, with “family and friends” of the principals providing the rest of the financing necessary for the deal. And Lofthagen will lead a six-person board of directors that will include non-executive chairman Emmanuel van Innis, also a member of the executive committee of GDF Suez; vice-chairman Jean-Leopold Schuybroek; chief financial officer Christine Burgaud; and two additional non-executive members.
Other senior personnel at the firm include chief operating officer Bob Lewis, chairman of public affairs Catherine Stewart, managing director of Belgian operations Baudouin Velge, and UK executive chairman Andrew Dunlop. The firm has offices in Brussels, Berlin, London, Paris, Prague, Washington, DC, and affiliates around the globe.
According to Lofthagen: “The MBO will drive us into the next phase of growth and represents not only our faith in the company but also our confidence in the market and the potential for a company like ours to do great things. We are convinced that our new ownership structure will enable us to address our clients’ needs even better through the commitment of the management team and the opportunity to further incentivize staff."
Lofthagen says the firm plans to continue its expansion. The public affairs business—which accounts for €10 million, or about 70 percent of the firm’s revenue and has been supplemented by recent acquisitions of Cabinet Stewart in Brussels and Politics International in the UK—is likely to grow organically, but other areas may see more targeted investment: corporate communications, particularly issues and crisis, and the energy and healthcare sectors.
The firm also expects to expand its international operations, through new hires and strategic partnerships.