Close-Up: Profile - The sanguine Scot who sold his shop for £14m

Mark Cridge convinced the man from Aegis to don a pirate's eyepatch and purchase glue London. Larissa Bannister reports.

The day after Mark Cridge sold his agency to Aegis for £14 million, trousering a cool £4 million or so for himself in the process, he's feeling a little bit worse for wear.

But it's not as a result of a night on the Champers with the glue London staff, who also made a tidy sum from their share options. Instead, he went for a quiet dinner with his wife and his bad head is the result of a couple of brandies they imbibed at the end of the night.

That understated reaction is typical of Cridge, whose friends in the industry tend to use words such as "dedicated" and "head-down" when asked to describe him.

"Scottish" is another word that comes up a lot - Cridge is inordinately proud of his roots and wears a kilt and a sgian-dubh (Scottish sock-dagger) to every awards ceremony he goes to. His Glaswegian accent can verge on the impenetrable, particularly after a few beers, and clients have been known to listen to him talk for hours and then ring up his account manager to get a translation of what he's said.

Accents are also behind Cridge's odd fascination with pirates. Apparently, if he tries to mimic any accent other than his own, he ends up sounding like Long John Silver.

He even convinced John Foster, the Aegis UK finance director, to wear a pirate's eyepatch while signing the final contracts to buy the agency last week.

It's taken Cridge just six years to build that agency, and it's only ten years since he got his first job at a small new-media design company called in Birmingham, after training as an architect.

"It was really early days. Netscape had just launched as a browser and animated gifs were pretty much at the cutting edge of technology," Cridge says. "I totally fell into new media by accident."

He only started getting properly interested after designing a website for M&C Saatchi. "We went down to Golden Square with a film crew," Cridge says. "It was my first glimpse into the world of advertising and it was a real eye-opener."

That inspired him to move down to London and spend two years as a designer at Modem, going on to become its senior art director before leaving to start his own agency. Lee Wright, the managing director at Grand Union, worked with him at Modem and says that even in those days, she always wanted him as the creative on any brief she worked on. "He's talented but he's always shown his commercial side, which is why he's so successful," she says. "Clients absolutely love him."

Gluemedia, as it was known at the time of launch, was set up with Cridge's creative partner, Jeremy Garner, as a three-way joint venture with Deepgroup and Media21.

A year later, Media21 was sold to Grey, gluemedia became part of Deepgroup, and Garner left with gluemedia's third partner, Sean Varga, to set up a (now defunct) agency called Bloodpartnership.

Cridge carried on, becoming the managing director after hiring Seb Royce from Ogilvy & Mather as the creative director. Royce, with impeccable timing, joined just before the dotcom crash. He's a lot happier about that decision now than he was at the time.

Glue managed to survive, but only just. Its parent company, Deepgroup, had overextended itself by taking on debt to finance ambitious expansion plans, and collapsed dramatically in September 2001.

Thanks to a rescue package from St Luke's, glue bought itself out of the failed business, paying £4,000 for the website and assets and changing its name to glue London. Within 18 months, the new glue was made Campaign's New-Media Agency of the Year.

"That was a scary time but I guess it was fear of failure that kept us going," Cridge says. The agency had been only two weeks away from opening a New York office when the crash hit.

"We'd just lost two pitches, for Sony and Citibank, so we decided to put the New York plans on hold," he adds. "If we hadn't done that we wouldn't be here today. So as much as all this is down to my incredible foresight and talent, it's also pretty much down to luck in the end."

Cridge says that his decision to structure glue like an advertising agency rather than like a typical new-media agency also played a part in its success. "We had creative teams and used similar job descriptions and ways of working," he says. "It helped because we didn't have to explain ourselves to clients or above-the-line agencies - they got what we were about straightaway."

Even in the early days, glue had a reputation for treating its staff well, and it lived up to that reputation last week, announcing a surprisingly generous share options package that means its employees could get a windfall of £4.5 million between them from the sale.

If nothing else, the share scheme should help keep them at the agency during the three-year earn-out period, and glue will need to hang on to its staff if it is to meet what must be some pretty stringent earn-out targets. Based on figures filed at Companies House, Aegis paid 20 times pre-tax and 15 times post-tax profit for glue, a considerable premium for an agency that made just £257,290 in 2004.

Cridge says the deal was struck based on figures for the past 12 months rather than the past financial year, and anticipates turnover of £4 million for 2005, compared with £2.8 million in 2004.

"Aegis realises the potential we have, we've built up a client list that includes some of the world's biggest advertisers and that's where we see a lot of future growth coming from," he adds.

Nevertheless, the £14 million price-tag implies an expectation of substantial performance improvements, even in what is undeniably a growth sector.

The agency's headcount has already risen from 45 to 65 this year, and Cridge expects to be employing more than 100 staff by the end of next year.

The emphasis now will be on bedding in some of the agency's existing relationships and turning existing projects into long-term relationships. Glue hasn't pitched much in the first half of the year, but some significant new-business wins would also come in handy if the earn-out targets are to be met.

But Cridge, unsurprisingly, remains sanguine about glue's ability to meet those targets. "He's basically a down-to-earth, straight-talking bloke and he's extremely good at what he does," Pete Robins, the Media21 founder, who has known Cridge since the Modem days, says.

"He's one of the only people in the industry without an ego. And maybe now he'll be able to afford a decent haircut."

THE LOWDOWN Age: 31 Lives: Camden, London Family: Wife Nerma (married eight years) Favourite ad: "BA don't give a shiatsu" Describe yourself in three words: Shy, silly and Scottish Greatest extravagance: Chocolate Interests outside work: Music Alternative career: Architect Book you last read: The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton