Shandwick Veteran Murphy Launches New Agency
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Shandwick Veteran Murphy Launches New Agency

Michael Murphy has received £20 million initial funding from a leading European private equity house, Bridgepoint Capital and Bank of Scotland and has launched hatch-group.

Paul Holmes

 

EDINBURGH, June 4—Ever since Michael Murphy resigned as deputy CEO of Shandwick International, shortly after the global PR agency was merged with Interpublic sister company Weber Worldwide, there has been speculation about where he would resurface. Murphy, who has experience running both European and Asia-Pacific businesses, was considered a leading candidate to head Edelman’s European operations, while some thought he would rejoin Shandwick founder Peter Chadlington, now attempting to build a new PR powerhouse at U.K. marketing services company Huntsworth.

Instead, Murphy will be competing with Chadlington in a race to create a new top 10 PR firm in his native U.K. Murphy has received £20 million initial funding from a leading European private equity house, Bridgepoint Capital and Bank of Scotland and has launched hatch-group, a new independent public relations group that Murphy wants to take into the U.K. top 10 and the European top 15 within three years.

He took the first step last week, acquiring London-based MacLaurin, a full service PR firm best known for its work in the technology, media, entertainment, corporate and consumer sectors. MacLaurin has revenues of £5 million in offices in London and Edinburgh, from clients including Disney, BT Cellnet, and Associated New Media. MacLaurin will continue to operate under its own brand and the firm’s founder, Brian MacLaurin, will be managing director of the new company. 

The MacLaurin acquisition will set the tone for future deals according to Murphy, who says he expects sellers to be attracted to hatch-group because of its entrepreneurial attitude. “We offer a real alternative to smaller independent firms who want to be part of something bigger,” he says, “but don’t want to be part of a large marketing services group. We can compete in financial terms with other buyers, and we will allow the companies we acquire to retain their own brand names and a large member of independence while supporting their marketing, human resources, and financial management.”

Murphy’s own experience—his firm, PR Consultants Scotland, was acquired by Shandwick—gives him some insight into the hopes and concerns of potential sellers. 
“Our aim is to move fast in broadening our core skills into other disciplines including financial PR, public affairs and high-tech,” says Murphy, who adds that the group’s initial focus will be on the U.K. and Europe, with U.S. acquisitions coming later. 

The plan is to get to about £50 million in fees by 2004, and then presumably go public—giving acquired companies “a second bite of the cherry.”

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