Avenir Global buys London creative healthcare agency

Avenir Global, the Canadian holding company that includes Axon and Madano in its network, has acquired London-based creative healthcare agency Cherry for an undisclosed sum.

New deal: (left to right) Avenir Global’s Ralph Sutton with, from Cherry, director Richard Cowhig, creative director Phil Stockdale, MD John Goundry, and client services director Rupert Whitehead
New deal: (left to right) Avenir Global’s Ralph Sutton with, from Cherry, director Richard Cowhig, creative director Phil Stockdale, MD John Goundry, and client services director Rupert Whitehead

Avenir international managing partner Ralph Sutton told PRWeek that Cherry – which generates annual revenue of £9.2m and employs 80 people - is a "good cultural fit" for the business, and both have been looking to secure more global work.

"What Cherry brings is a lot of expertise in marketing communications; the digital and creative work that goes with marketing communications. That’s a strength we didn’t have and Cherry really addresses that in a big way."

The deal will see Cherry, which Sutton said has achieved "really good growth" over the past five years, work alongside Avenir’s other agencies, particularly healthcare-focused Axon, on client work where appropriate.

Sutton said: "It’s very nice that we have no [client] conflicts but we definitely share some clients and we definitely will want to introduce the new services that Cherry brings to existing clients, and similarly, the new service that Avenir Global companies bring to Cherry.

"We’ve got quite a strong insights and analytics team already and that’s something we can bring to Cherry. [Cherry has] strong creative and digital capabilities and I think our teams will want to tap into as well. There are some really nice synergies within the businesses so we definitely see our teams working alongside each other on clients, but they will remain separate brands."

The addition of Cherry means Avenir now has a global healthcare operation of around 250 people.

The acquisition follows that of US agency Padilla earlier this year.

Regarding further acquisitions, Sutton said the business will need time to integrate the new agencies but added: "We’re still looking. We’re still talking to organisations." He mentioned health, food and energy as sectors the agency would like to grow in, alongside corporate and public affairs in North America.

"London is still important but we will look at Europe," Sutton added. "What we’re not necessarily looking to do is plant flags in the map for the sake of it. We’ll look at opportunities that fit with our business, our culture."

He said Avenir, which also owns US agency Shift Communications, would consider opening offices in other markets alongside acquisitions. Pointing to Axon, which started in Toronto before expanding to London, Copenhagen, Zug (Switzerland), New York and Brighton, he said: "We do grow new offices. That might be the way to go. We certainly see opportunities in North America for Cherry - one of the reasons they were attracted to us was our North American presence, and quality of our clients in America."

On the impact of Brexit, Sutton said: "We still believe London to be a global hub because of the talent. We don’t expect our clients to change their attitudes; we don’t expect Cherry’s clients to change their attitudes."

Cherry’s leadership team, led by MD John Goundry, will remain in place, Avenir said, with Goundry joining the Avenir board. Asked about possible redundancies, Sutton said Avenir is "not trying to make savings with synergies" and is focused on "growing the business".

Founded in 2005, Cherry’s client list includes Baxter, Biomarin, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eisai, Reckitt Benkiser, Shire, SOBI and Vifor.

Goundry said: "Avenir Global is exactly who we were looking for in a partner. Both companies share common values and a complimentary expertise. Madano’s bespoke data science techniques and innovative qualitative insights, for example, will further help our clients obtain measurable communications impact. At the same time, we see exciting synergies with Axon to expand the services we offer clients. Avenir Global has a proven record of helping businesses grow, with the organisational reach to propel our client offering and growth in the EU, US and Canada."

Avenir is owned by Res Publica Consulting Group. Prior to the Cherry acquistion, it had 760 employees in 21 offices across Canada, the US, and Europe.

Avenir was established last year by Res Publica's National PR as a holding company to manage the agency alongside subsidiaries Madano, Axon, and Shift.

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