Tech entrepreneur Vin Murria takes 13% stake in M&C Saatchi

She has become biggest shareholder in troubled group.

Murria: founded Advanced in 2008
Murria: founded Advanced in 2008

Technology entrepreneur Vin Murria has bought a 13.25% stake in M&C Saatchi in an unexpected move that has made her the largest investor in the troubled agency group.

Shares in M&C Saatchi, which is still coming to terms with an accounting scandal from last year, shot up 30% to 59p on the news.

A stock market filing from M&C Saatchi said Murria, the founder of software company Advanced, and her family bought 15.25 million shares for an undisclosed price on 30 April.

The stock price closed at 39.5p on that day, meaning she may have paid in the region of £6m. Her stake is now worth £9m at the higher price of 59p a share and the group is valued at about £66m.

M&C Saatchi and Murria declined to comment and her intentions are unknown.

She has a relatively low profile in advertising circles but was a non-executive director at Chime Communications, a rival to M&C Saatchi, when it used to be on the stock market until 2015.

Murria set up Advanced in 2008 and reportedly made about £100m when she sold it to Vista Equity Partners in 2015. 

She has gone on to be an advisor and investor in Hg, a software and services-focused private-equity investor, and is a non-executive director at a number of companies, including Sophos and Softcat, and is a senior advisor at NM Rothschild & Sons.

Chairman Jeremy Sinclair, chief executive David Kershaw and executive director Bill Muirhead co-founded M&C Saatchi in 1995 with Charles and Maurice Saatchi – all of whom had worked together previously at Saatchi & Saatchi.

Sinclair, Kershaw and Muirhead each own 3.98%, giving them almost 12%.

They fell out with Maurice Saatchi and three non-executive directors, who resigned in December 2019 in a row over the handling of £11.6m in accounting "adjustments".

M&C Saatchi’s shares crashed 90% from 330p in August, before the accounting problems emerged, to as low as 30p earlier this year.

There has been speculation that M&C Saatchi could be a takeover target or the founders could seek investors to take it private.

Kershaw told Campaign in September that the accounting crisis was "the most painful" moment for the M&C Saatchi corporate brand in its 25-year history.

It is not the first time that an external investor has made a surprise move to buy a stake in M&C Saatchi in a downturn. Matthew Freud, the founder of PR agency Freuds, bought a 3% stake in 2009 and made a large profit when the stock rose.