Huntsworth : advertising & marketing assignments

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Huntsworth is the PR, corporate communications and healthcare group headed until 2015 by Lord Peter Chadlington, previously the founder of Shandwick (now Weber Shandwick). The company was transformed in the 2000s by a series of acquisitions, not least the reverse takeover in 2005 of much larger marketing services group Incepta, whose portfolio included financial communications specialist Citigate Dewe Rogerson. The enlarged business adopted the Huntsworth name and its portfolio of non-PR businesses was sold on to rival group Media Square. Other key acquisitions included Grayling and Dorland Global. The latter formed the platform for what is now a substantial global healthcare communications division, bolstered by a series of further bolt-on purchases. After 2010, though, the group in general and Grayling in particular struggled with poor performance. That led to the departure of founder Chadlington and a pivot by the group as a whole towards healthcare communications. Paul Taaffe, formerly chairman of Hill & Knowlton, was appointed as CEO at the end of 2014, and has slowly succeeded in turning the business around. Revenues for 2018 reached a record high of £225m, two-thirds of which was generated by healthcare marketing. Key units include health communications agency Apothecom, experiential and events specialist Creative Engagement, and health & wellness marketing agencies Evoke and Giant. Huntsworth also continues to house its three non-healthcare communications agencies. Grayling's performance has stabilised but it is a shadow of its former self. At its peak in 2011 it was among the Top 15 PR agencies worldwide. The Holmes Report ranked it as the global #40 agency in 2017 with fee income of $55m. Citigate Dewe Rogerson ranked #67 with £30m while Red was outside the Top 100 at £18m.

Capsule checked 6th March 2019

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Historical profile information for Huntsworth

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Mar 2018: Troubled marketing services group Huntsworth finally appears to have turned the corner, reporting its first net profit since 2013. The group is best-known as the parent of PR agencies Grayling, Citigate Dewe Rogerson and Red, but that side of the business has had a dismal few years, and is still in steady decline. Grayling in particular is a shadow of what it once was following years of restructuring, with revenues down from over £140m in 2011 to just £41m for 2017. Instead, Huntsworth's focus has shifted to healthcare marketing, which now contributes over 60% of revenues and almost 80% of profits. Its biggest subsidiaries in this field are US-based pharma marketing agency Evoke and medical communications specialist Apothecom. Combined revenues for the year rose 9% to £197m, and the group posted a net profit of £15.7m.

Adbrands Weekly Update 4th May 2017: Chinese PR group BlueFocus has pulled out of struggling UK counterpart Huntsworth, selling the bulk of its 20% shareholding for a loss, and placing the remaining shares up for sale at a later date.

Adbrands Weekly Update 16th April 2015: There was little sign of a magic bullet yet at British PR group Huntsworth, owners of PR networks Grayling, Citigate and Red. Another disappointing year saw further erosion of revenues to £165m, as well as a £56m net loss. improvements that had been forecast mid-year failed to materialise, resulting in a £75m impairment charge, mainly against lead network Grayling. Revenues at all three PR networks declined year-on-year, with only specialist arm Huntsworth Health reporting an increase. New CEO Paul Taafe has only just arrived at the group this month to take over from departed founder CEO Lord Chadlington. He has a challenge on his hands. Otherwise, the group faces the likelihood of being broken up between two of its biggest shareholders, Chinese PR group BlueFocus, and US investor Lake Capital, which also owns WCRS marketing services group Engine.

Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Dec 2014: Marketing services group Huntsworth, which owns the Grayling and Citigate PR networks, has finally named Paul Taaffe, former chairman of Hill & Knowlton and communications chief of Groupon, to become CEO after a prolonged search. He succeeds founder Lord Chadlington, who had announced his intention to retire as soon as a new leader could be appointed. The group will also recruit a new CFO to succeed Sally Withey who has been on medical leave for much of this year. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Aug 2014: Lord Chadlington, the former Peter Gummer, announced plans to retire as chief executive of UK-based PR group Huntsworth as soon as a successor can be appointed. Current COO Sally Withey is absent on sick leave, but is expected to return in the autumn. Chadlington, 72 this year, launched Huntsworth in 2001, having sold his previous business, the PR giant Shandwick, to Interpublic five years earlier. The new group controls the Grayling and Citigate brands among others, but has encountered tough trading this year. First half revenues declined 2% to £83m, and pretax profits plunged by 27%. Chinese PR group BlueFocus acquired a 20% holding in the business last year, and US private equity group Lake Capital is also a significant shareholder. That group is currently acquiring full control of another UK marketing group, Engine Group.

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