College Group arrives in Middle East with M:Communications acquisition

College Group has established its first Middle East business with the acquisition of M:Communications' former Dubai-based business.

Nicholas Lunt: Co-leader of College Hill's new Middle East business
Nicholas Lunt: Co-leader of College Hill's new Middle East business

Nicholas Lunt and Samantha Bartel Al Khalaf have been appointed managing partners and will join College Group along with the former M: team that has been operating out of the UAE and across the Middle East region since 2008.

College Hill also pledged to expand the Middle East operation by opening offices in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh as well as satellite offices in Doha and Manama.

The move marks a further international expansion of the group following the sale of a majority stake to private equity firm Vitruvian Partners in October 2011.

Richard Nichols, chief executive of College Group, called the investment ‘an important milestone in College Group's international expansion strategy’.

He added: ‘The Middle East is a thriving but challenging business centre with many opportunities and so it is vital we can deliver a strong integrated offering on the ground that it is second to none. Today’s news reflects our commitment to this and our ongoing plans for further international growth in key global financial and business markets.’

Lunt, who has also previously held senior posts at Weber Shandwick and Ogilvy, commented: ‘We’re establishing the company’s regional presence at a time of great growth and opportunity in the Middle East. The UAE is beginning to fulfil its potential as one of the world’s key centres of trade and commerce. 

‘Clients increasingly look for internationally networked strategic counsel and the experience of our Middle East team combined with College Group’s industry and practice experts will benefit our existing as well as future clients.’

Lunt, who joined M:Communications in 2009, has also previously served as communications adviser to the Prime Minister's office in Iraq, NATO chief civilian spokesman in Kabul, various government ministers in Afghanistan and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Since its private equity investment College Group has acquired Russia and CIS investor relations specialist Shared Value, UK financial PR business Merlin Financial Communications and German-based Haubrok Investor Relations.

A number of former divisions of the wound-down M:Communications have been spun out into separate entities in recent months, including its former Russian business which became EM in July.

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