Grayling global chief executive Sarah Scholefield (pictured) has been appointed Accordience CEO, with Huntsworth chief financial officer and senior executive Neil Jones named chairman, while Red chief executive Mike Morgan becomes group vice-chairman. The trio will retain their existing roles in addition to their new responsibilities.
“The new board is made up of the leadership of the agencies,” Scholefield told PRWeek. “That’s really critical because, for the first time, we’re all formally sharing a sense of direction and a purpose at the most senior level, but also understanding that sometimes we work brilliantly in combination and sometimes we can work brilliantly as individual businesses.”
Scholefield said the new name derives from a combination of ‘accord’, which signals collaborative working, and ‘audience’, pointing to deep expertise in specific audiences.
She said the firm wanted a name that “was unique for us” and “didn’t detract from the agency brands”. “They’re the absolute stars of the show… and they will absolutely remain as such. We want to be able to give them enough space to continue to flourish.”
The rebrand follows the company’s acquisition last month of UK agency Cirkle, and it comes almost two years after Huntsworth’s £524m sale to private equity firm CD&R.
Scholefield said there would be more of a move towards closer working between the agencies. “Part of this is a formalisation of what we were already doing. We’ve always shared clients, we’ve always referred clients across the group when clients are happy for us to do so. I think [the rebrand] partly gives us a collective sense of direction and more formality around how we operate.
“It’s also to do with client demand,” she added. “We’re seeing more and more clients who really want deep expertise but in one place, and this really gives us a more formal structure where we can integrate and blend our different services to really meet client needs.”
Accordience has combined revenue of over $100m, with nearly 1,000 employees and operations in 30 countries.
In the UK, Grayling, Red and Cirkle saw revenue growth of 26, 32 and 35 per cent respectively in 2021, according to the PRWeek UK Top 150 Consultancies table (figures for Citigate Dewe Rogerson were not available).
On recent trading, Scholefield said the group is seeing double-digit growth this year. "There have been some standout performances – Cirkle is incredibly strong, Red continues to thrive. We are all growing as we should. I think it’s a trajectory we’ve seen across the group in the last couple of years anyway – we’ve definitely got some good momentum. The outlook look’s very strong.”
Announcing the Cirkle acquisition in April, Huntsworth said it would make an “opportunistic pursuit of strategic acquisitions”. Scholefield said there was no further news on that at the moment, but reiterated the ambition: “If something is complementary to the group and to the rest of the agencies in the group then, of course, we will have a look at it.”
Jones said: “Sarah’s transformative leadership of Grayling makes her the stand-out choice to lead us into this new era for our business. The recent acquisition of Cirkle demonstrates our appetite for growth and our ambition to bring together world-class agencies that are leaders in their fields. The combination of agencies that sit within Accordience answer a clearly evolving client need and have the ability to thrive both as a group and individually.”
Huntsworth’s other division, Huntsworth Health, retains its name.