Successful management buyout triggers three-year growth strategy for Freshwater

21 February 2019

Independent communications agency Freshwater is set to implement a new growth strategy after successfully completing a £2.6m management buyout (MBO) of institutional and private shareholders who invested when the company listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 2007.

The Cardiff and London based business, which had a turnover of £4.8m last year and employs more than 50 staff, is aiming to double in size over the next three years through a combination of organic growth and selective acquisitions.

Freshwater has not made any acquisitions since leaving AIM in 2010, focusing instead on consolidating its position in key markets such as healthcare and transport, but it is now looking to acquire businesses that would enhance both its sectoral strengths and its capabilities in growth areas such as digital, data, insight and evaluation.

As part of this strategy, Freshwater has today (21 February 2019) unveiled a new brand identity and website that more accurately reflects its role as a group that provides strategic consultancy, creates content and engages audiences through events, consultations and advertising.

“Freshwater started life in 1997 as a traditional PR agency, but we have consistently been at the forefront of the fast-changing media environment, constantly developing our services to help clients meet their objectives,” says John Underwood, chief executive.

“We are at the beginning of what promises to be an exciting new phase in our development, having now transformed Freshwater into a business that’s seventy per cent owned by its board and senior staff, putting ourselves firmly in control of our own destiny.”

Long-standing directors Steve Howell, David Howell, John Underwood, Angharad Neagle and Haydn Evans created a new company called Raglan House Holdings to complete the MBO, but the business will trade as Freshwater with an allied conference subsidiary, Waterfront, operating under its own brand.

“It is an exciting time for Freshwater,” added managing director, Angharad Neagle. “We have a fantastic team and our goal is to provide a structure that will help them to achieve their potential and enable the agency as a whole to flourish. Our people are our greatest asset, so the focus over the next few years will be empowering them to grow the business and deliver results for clients with the enthusiasm and expertise that has always been our hallmark.”

The group will continue to be headquartered in Cardiff, where two-thirds of its staff are based, but it is also looking to expand its 20-strong London team and to win new business from clients across the UK. Two institutions have remained as shareholders – the Development Bank for Wales (DBW) and Welsh private equity firm CriSeren – having supported the MBO in advance.