M&C Saatchi announces merger of two PR shops

Molly Aldridge is leaving as part of move.

M&C Saatchi Public Relations: Hides and Aldridge
M&C Saatchi Public Relations: Hides and Aldridge

M&C Saatchi is merging two of its PR agencies, M&C Saatchi Public Relations and Talk.Global, in a move that sees the departure of M&C Saatchi Public Relations' global chief executive, Molly Aldridge, Campaign's sister title PRWeek reports.

Leaders of the merged shop, which will be called M&C Saatchi Talk, denied the move was linked to the ongoing accounting scandal at the holding company.

M&C Saatchi Talk will have a near-90-strong workforce and annual revenue of about £8m.

Talk.Global chief executive Jane Boardman will be chief executive, with Chris Hides, global managing director and co-founder of M&C Saatchi Public Relations, named managing director. Talk.Global chief operating officer Ryan Woor will have the same title at M&C Saatchi Talk.

Hides confirmed to PRWeek that Aldridge, who co-founded M&C Saatchi Public Relations in 2012, is leaving the business.

The merger is to take place over the next three months and will be completed in April, when the agency will move to a new as-yet-unidentified office.

Asked about the reason for the merger, Boardman told PRWeek: "I've been thinking for quite a while that it's kind of crazy having two medium-sized agencies when the world – our PR world, specifically – is moving to the need for size, scale and stature.

"Also, there's quite a lot of stuff we were struggling to fund, like a really expensive evaluation system, lots of central resources. Bringing the two companies together means we can really invest in that stuff. Clients these days are looking for such a range of services in the PR world and such a depth of intelligence, insight, data management, influencer, technology."

She added that growth has been "really difficult to achieve in this market and this I think will really superpower our growth".

According to Boardman, there will be no redundancies as a result of the merger. The client lists of the two agencies are "really compatible", she said, with a lack of overlapping roles.

Hides added: "It's two good businesses coming together to make one great one. This is absolutely not a restructuring exercise. It's more about realising an opportunity to bring these two businesses together."

'We would have done this anyway'

The news comes amid a scandal that has engulfed the listed parent company following the multimillion-pound accounting error revealed last year that led to plunging profits and share price, and the resignation of co-founder and executive director Lord Saatchi alongside three non-executive directors.

Boardman denied the merger was linked to the issues at the holding company and said discussions about the move began in the summer before the crisis erupted.

She said: "I definitely know we would have done this anyway, but it's very hard for the world out there to believe that, to be honest!"

Most of M&C Saatchi's PR business had "not been affected" by the crisis, Boardman said, but she admitted that the constant focus on it was "a bit destabilising for some of the team".

"It hasn't impacted on us at all. We're still getting on with our business, we're still making the money we said we'd make, we're delivering our income," Boardman added.

Asked why the merger didn't include the group's other PR agency, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, Boardman said that is a "really different business" and the prospect of a merger "wasn't even vaguely mentioned or considered".

Speaking to PRWeek in September last year, after M&C Saatchi announced a £6.4m hit to its financial performance in its interim results, chief executive David Kershaw was upbeat about the performance of the PR agencies.

"We’re pleased with the PR side, which is showing good business growth," he said at the time. "The numbers are good and reliable, and I think we’ll continue to see growth in the UK."

PRWeek has contacted Aldridge for comment.

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