LONDON—George Sard and Paul Verbinnen, principals in the corporate and financial communications consultancy firm Citigate Sard Verbinnen, are to buy the firm back from Lord Peter Chadlington’s Huntsworth Group over the next four years. Huntsworth acquired Citigate Sard Verbinnen when it bought parent company Incepta last year.
Chadlington cited a clash between his objective of building a strong, stable and sustainable global business and the project-driven nature of much of Citigate Sard Verbinnen’s business, with its focus on the mergers and acquisitions arena and other crisis communications.
“The group minimizes dependence on either any one sector or any PR business with a high percentage of project income even if, in certain exceptional market conditions, excellent margins can be achieved,” said Huntsworth in a statement. “Huntsworth’s public relations companies are expected to start each financial year with around 70 percent of projected fees from annual contracts and long term client commitments.”
The group’s other financial public relations holdings—Citigate Dewe Rogerson, Hudson Sandler, and Global Consulting Group—have about 65 percent of their business for 2006 identified, while CSV had about 25 percent, the company said.
But there were also “differences” between Huntsworth and senior executives at CSV “as to the future of the business” that would have resulted in the departure of those executives. The M&A business is built on personal relationships, and the departure would almost certainly have resulted in the loss of business, followed by costly legal action.
Sard and Verbinnen will purchase 51 percent of the firm on January 1, 2007, at which time it will likely revert to its original brand: Citigate Sard Verbinnen. They will acquire the remainder of the business no later than December of 2009.
CSV had revenues of around ₤9.7 million in 2005, down from ₤11.5 million in 2003, although much of that decline is due to the weakening of the dollar against the pound over that time period.
Chadlington says Huntsworth has now completed the restructuring necessitated by the Incepta acquisition, and is a strong position moving forward. The group now has approximately ₤140 million in net public relations fees, 19 percent margins, significantly reduced debt, and a sizable war chest to fuel its continued international expansion, which is likely to include an enhanced presence for the Citigate Dewe Rogers brand in the United States.
Chadlington also identified three additional areas of potential expansion: Huntsworth Health, an integrated PR, medical education, research and healthcare advertising unit with operations in London and Basle will expand into North America; the firm’s public affairs business, which is strong in London, will grow its U.S. capabilities, building on the foundation laid by Geraldine Ferraro of Global Consulting Group; and there will be a major push into the Asia-Pacific region.