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Four acquires Insight Consulting Group to form UK’s leading public affairs agency

Four has acquired public affairs and corporate communications agency Insight Consulting Group (ICG). ICG is a 30-strong agency specialising in public policy advice for organisations and trade bodies in the healthcare, entertainment, professional services and third sectors among others.

ICG will rebrand as Four Public Affairs when the company moves to Four’s London Bridge headquarters in the coming months and will merge with Four’s existing 20-strong public affairs team which specialises in the complementary areas of local government, regeneration, property and planning consultancy. It is believed that the combined team will be the UK’s largest public affairs agency (source: PR Week League Tables 2016).

ICG was founded by John Lehal in 2006. John is one of the UK’s leading lobbyists, a former parliamentary candidate and campaign director for both Andy Burnham and Owen Smith in their bids to become Labour leader. He and his management team have grown ICG into a top 10 UK public affairs agency with fee income in 2016 in the region of £3.5 million. Clients include Bristol-Myers Squibb,  Learning Disability Voices, Local Government Association, Novartis, Paddy Power-Betfair, Pfizer and Time Inc. Combined fee billing for ICG and Four’s Public Affairs practice will be more than £5.5 million. This acquisition should take Four’s overall agency fee income to some £33 million in 2017.

John will become chief executive of the combined public affairs businesses and will sit on the Operating Board of Four Communications Group. Sarah Jones, currently a director at ICG and Ralph Scott, practice director at Four, will become deputy MDs of the new combined structure after a transition period when ICG moves to Four’s premises. Current Four Public Affairs managing director, Karen Alcock, is leaving Four in the spring to pursue new opportunities.

Healthcare is a key sector for ICG and the acquisition will also strengthen Four Health, one of Four’s strategic multi-service sector groups. Four entered the healthcare market in 2015 with the acquisition of specialist media planning & buying agency MSA (now Four Health Media). This was followed by the acquisition of healthcare PR agency Packer Forbes in 2016 which is now rebranded as Four Health Communications. ICG will become the third prong of Four Health adding public affairs and market access - a critical third service.

Nan Williams, Four Communications Group chief executive said:

“ICG is the perfect fit for us. We have been looking for a strong Westminster public affairs agency for a while to complement our existing team which specialises in local government and planning work. Together we will have a very strong offering in what we believe will be the largest PA agency in the UK.  Over the last few years we have also been building a healthcare business through strategic acquisitions. ICG’s strength in this area means we can offer a third crucial service to this market which is increasingly becoming integrated.”

ICG managing director, John Lehal comments:

“Insight was established to create innovative campaigns with a purpose and we’ve worked for some of the UK’s leading businesses, charities and pressure groups over the last decade. Our significant growth in revenue and staff numbers has shown that we are not a company that likes to stand still, which is why I am thrilled to be continuing our evolution as part of the Four Communications Group.

As MD of Insight, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to find a partner agency that provides the best possible fit for our staff and clients. Four is an ambitious agency and we are very excited about what we can achieve together as the UK’s biggest Public Affairs consultancy team. With organisations facing considerable political uncertainty and regulatory risks in the years ahead, we look forward to working with new and existing clients to build their political reputation, maximise commercial opportunities and create compelling campaigns.”

This acquisition is the sixth since Four successfully secured a £10m investment of equity finance from BGF (Business Growth Fund) in 2015 and its 10th acquisition overall. The agency has a strong track record of acquiring and integrating communications agencies which offer complementary services to the Group including bgb in 2011, Colman Getty in 2012, Kinross & Render in 2013, Consolidated PR in 2014, MSA Media, Broadgate Mainland and FBA in 2015 and Packer Forbes and Rain Communications in 2016.

Four was ranked no.15 in PR Week’s 2016 UK Consultancies report as well as no 6. independent, no.4 consumer, no.9 public affairs and no.46 in the world.  In 2016 Four was ranked in the Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 league table, which ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing profits over the last three years, the Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200 league table, which ranks Britain’s mid-market private companies with the fastest-growing international sales and was named by the London Stock Exchange as one of the 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain 2016. 


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