LONDON--Next Fifteen, which owns Text 100, Bite Communications, The OutCast Agency, Lexis and M Booth, has named media and marketing communications specialist Richard Eyre as its new chairman.

Eyre succeeds Will Whitehorn, who stepped down from the role earlier this year. At the time, Next Fifteen CEO Tim Dyson told the Holmes Report that the group was searching for a “City heavyweight” to fill the position, as it focuses on non-traditional acquisitions.

Eyre brings 35 years experience across the media and marketing industries, including senior leadership roles at ITV Network, Capital Radio and RTL Group. In particular, he noted that his tenure as CEO of Capital Radio - at a time of considerable acquisition in that industry - would help him at Next Fifteen.

“The acquisition process is something I am reasonably familiar with,” said Eyre. “But acquisition is step one of a pretty long journey - the integration of acquired businesses is something of an art.”

His appointment by Next Fifteen is another sign of the group’s intentions to expand its digital offering, after several acquisitions in this area. "The PR industry is going through an exciting market transition that is creating significant growth opportunities in digital marketing for Next Fifteen,” said Dyson. “Richard's knowledge of the broader marketing industry will be invaluable as we go through this transition."

The latest of these is acquisitions is Scottish digital firm Bourne. Next Fifteen takes an 80 percent stake in Bourne for a price of £1.95m, with further payments dependent on the digital shop's performance over the next three years. The remaining 20 percent is expected to be acquired by 2018. Bourne is headquartered in Glasgow, and also has offices in London and New York.

After 16 years at advertising agencies, Eyre has focused on digital media in recent times and is currently chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). He has also chaired numerous mobile technology specialists, and is currently a director of several companies, including Results International, Signify and Atlantic FM.

For Eyre, PR agencies are ideally positioned to take advantage of the growth of social media.

“Advertising is great at the creation of finely worked but actually intrusive content,” he pointed out. “What is needed in this new domain is not intrusion but participation in the conversation. I’d argue that we are much more in the area of PR expertise.”

“When you look around the digital world, there are literally thousands of startups concentrating on fascinating new aspects of comms that didn’t exist one to two years ago,” he added. “It’s probably harder than it’s ever been to run a really effective company at the frontline of media communication.”

In the financial year ended 31 July 2010 Next Fifteen achieved revenue of £72.3m and operating profit of £6.5m.