MSQ Partners, an international marketing communications group, has announced its intention to buy the Be Heard Partnership (LSE: BHRD) and three of its agencies (MMT Digital, Freemavens and Agenda21), subject to shareholder approval. Be Heard has agreed to sell its creative agency, The Corner, back to its management team ahead of the transaction concluding, again subject to shareholder approval.
The deal values Be Heard’s equity at around £6.2M and would create a combined group with over 750 staff in the UK, Asia and the USA and be led by MSQ’s CEO Peter Reid. MSQ is backed by LDC, the established UK private equity group, which has supported the deal.
The potential acquisition aims to accelerate MSQ’s growth by building scale and increasing its technical capabilities, particularly in digital tech and data analytics.
Both MSQ and Be Heard have developed, in parallel, a complementary multi-disciplinary offer, built around each individual agency’s offering. Joining together would bring a number of benefits including accelerating the ability to win more, and larger, clients, providing additional scale in the core London market and enabling the roll-out of Be Heard’s capabilities across MSQ’s global footprint in the UK, US and Asia.
Be Heard has around 240 staff in MMT Digital (tech and digital transformation), Freemavens (data analytics/insight) and Agenda21 (digital media) based in London and Uppingham that would transfer over to MSQ. Key clients include Vodafone, Unilever and GSK.
MSQ has around 525 people across a number of international offices and operates six agency brands: Holmes & Marchant (branding and design), Smarts (PR and content), Stack (customer acquisition and engagement), Stein IAS (B2B marketing), The Gate (creative and media) and twentysix (digital). Key clients include Unilever, Peugeot, Nestlé and HM Government.
MMT Digital and Freemavens, which have both seen double digit growth for the past three years, with MMT’s revenues growing from £5m in 2016 to £15m in 2019 and Freemavens’ from around £1.9m to £4.3m in the same period, would continue to operate as stand-alone brands. MSQ intends to combine Agenda21 with The Gate’s media division – Walk-In Media –to strengthen digital media capabilities.
Ben Rudman, COO of Be Heard and co-founder of MMT Digital, would be appointed to MSQ Partners’ board as an Executive Director alongside Kate Howe, who recently joined MSQ from Dentsu Aegis Network UK. MSQ’s board is led by non-executive chairman Charles Courtier.
Peter Reid, CEO of MSQ Partners, said: “Ben and I have known each other for a number of years and I have followed Be Heard’s progress with interest since its foundation.
“There are a number of benefits to both MSQ and Be Heard that would come out of this proposed deal, particularly in relation to access to a wider portfolio of clients and technical knowledge. This will enable us to accelerate our ability to win more, and larger, clients, grow our base in London and roll-out Be Heard’s capabilities across our global offices.
“Both MSQ and Be Heard have complementary multi-disciplinary offerings and have employee-ownership within their business structures. Should the deal go ahead, Be Heard’s senior managers will invest in the enlarged group as is currently the case in MSQ.”
Ben Rudman, COO of Be Heard and co-founder of MMT Digital, said: “The deal with MSQ presents an opportunity for us to grow and invest in our agencies, while exploring ways of bringing even greater value to our existing clients and access to potential clients both in the UK and overseas.”
LDC first backed MSQ Partners in a secondary buy-out in May 2019.