Headland sells minority stake to 'accelerate growth'

Fast-growing PR agency Headland has secured a minority investment from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.

'A pivotal moment in Headland’s development' - CEO Chris Salt (left) and managing partner Dan Mines
'A pivotal moment in Headland’s development' - CEO Chris Salt (left) and managing partner Dan Mines

The size of the investment and price have not been disclosed but PRWeek understands two LDC representatives will join a new Investment Board - overseeing the direction of the business - alongside Headland CEO Chris Salt, managing partner Dan Mines, and an undisclosed non-executive chair.

Majority ownership will remain with Headland's 21 partners.

Headland said LDC will support the agency to "accelerate its growth and fuel expansion plans". "As an investment partner, LDC will enable Headland to further broaden and deepen its consultancy capabilities, fueling the company’s ambitions to advise a range of clients on complex communications and reputation matters."

LDC has a history of investing in comms businesses. It bought a significant stake in Blue Rubicon (a precursor to Teneo UK) in 2012, and in 2019 secured majority ownership of both Instinctif and MSQ, the owner of consumer PR agency Smarts.

The new deal follows a strong period of growth for Headland, whose revenue increased 20 per cent last year to £16.3m and has more than doubled since 2017.

The London-based company employs 117 people and its clients include Accenture, ASOS, Danone, eBay, Future, Just Eat Takeaway.com, PepsiCo, Pret, Saga, Three UK, TikTok, UBS, Versus Arthritis and Watches of Switzerland. It specialises in financial and corporate communications, public affairs and campaigning.

LDC director David Andrews said: “The team at Headland has made a remarkable impact upon the communications market during the last few years. We are backing the management team’s vision and are excited at the opportunity to support them on the next stage of their journey.”

Salt said: “This is a pivotal moment in Headland’s development. We have had an incredible nine years, working with fantastic clients and attracting great people to Headland. We now welcome LDC as a partner with the right experience and expertise to support our future development. We see amazing possibilities ahead for our clients and our team. We want to continue to advise on interesting and challenging mandates, continue to hire the best people, continue to grow and continue to love what we do.”

The agency has prided itself on its independence, and the new investment will be seen as a way to accelerate growth without relinquishing the controlling stake. Speaking to PRWeek in 2018, Mines said: "If you're independent you can just develop all the time. You're a constant work in progress. The moment you've got to hit somebody else's numbers it changes everything."

Headland was actually founded twice; initially in 2006 by Salt and Howard Lee, former colleagues at agency Gavin Anderson, as a largely financial PR specialist. The company was dissolved and re-emerged in 2013 as a limited liability partnership, owned initially by founding partners Salt, Lee, Mines and Fishburn Hedges co-founder Neil Hedges.

Headland was named Best Agency for Public Affairs at the PRWeek Corporate, City & Public Affairs Awards earlier this year. In 2019, it was shortlisted in PRWeek UK's Agency of the Decade list.

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