LONDON — After weeks of speculation, Next 15 has confirmed it has bought Engine UK for £77.5million, with its Engine PR brand MHP + Mischief now operating as an independent agency within the group.
Completion of the deal will take place early next week, with MHP Mischief CEO Alex Bigg and Deputy CEO Nick Barron remaining in place and no further roles or title changes within the revenue agency. 200 people and £31million. The existing management team has no ownership interest in the acquired business.
The announcement comes after Next 15, which owns 22 other marcomms agency brands including PR firms Archetype and MBooth, released a statement last week confirming it was in talks to buy Engine UK.
Lake Capital – which bought Engine for £100m in 2014 – announced last summer that it planned to sell the group, which also includes digital, data, advertising and experience capabilities; Next 15 was one of several companies in talks to buy the company.
As a result of the deal, Engine Transformation, Engine UK’s digital transformation business, will also eventually become a standalone business, while Engine Creative will merge with advertising agency Next 15 ODD.
MHP Mischief now plans to embark on a major investment program, including acquisitions.
Bigg told PRovoke Media: “Next 15 is a publicly traded company run on a private equity model, with a very light touch on its independent businesses. They don’t interfere with the way we run the business and they provide support in terms of investment, so there are huge opportunities for growth. We’ve doubled the size of the business in the last five years and we want to double it again with the help of Next 15, through new offerings, acquisitions and expanding what we already do.
The US and Asia would likely be the first international markets targeted by MHP Mischief, although Barron said: ‘We don’t want to put a lot of dots on the map, it will be one or two key markets to give us’ Follow solar coverage for global customers. Bigg added: “We will not replicate MHP Mischief in these markets, we will go into a discipline – whether it is capital markets, corporates or healthcare – and build from there.”
However, Barron said the agency’s priority was national: “We believe there is a lot more growth in the UK, and we will double down on our strengths in branding and corporate reputation, capital markets, health and financial services.
Of the Next 15 deal, Barron said: “We think we’ve done a good job and we wanted an owner with an understanding of PR: it makes a difference to have an owner who has a real affinity for our industry, and in Next 15 we have that. When speaking with other leaders of the PR companies they own, they were positive about how they are treated in the area of PR. And investment is key – all the growth we’ve achieved has been achieved organically, and now we have an owner who is as enthusiastic about the business and investing in it as we are.
“We’re super excited – it’s been a while to come and we can finally sit down and see how we want to run this business with a blank sheet of paper.”
Bigg added: “We believe that the best agencies are independent, do the best work, are the most innovative and the most attractive as an employer. We hope that being an independent freelancer will act as a signal to attract other senior talent.
Commenting on the deal, Next 15 CEO Tim Dyson said: “MHP Mischief is quite simply the UK’s most outstanding communications consultancy with huge potential for growth. It was clear from the start that the future of the business is best served by giving Alex and his team the autonomy and investment they need to build a leading global brand. I look forward to supporting them on this journey.
Recent clients of MHP Mischief – named UK Agency of the Year 2021 by PRovoke Media – include Innocent Drinks, LV and Alexion.