Communications business hits the acquisition trail

Fergus Bailie

Family-owned communication specialist The Baird Group has revealed a fresh identity and a completely new name, as the firm eyes a £20m rise in turnover by the end of 2021.

What began as a single printing company in Belfast in 1862, the newly-entitled Bailie Group – now headquartered in Leeds – has forecast revenues of £45m in 2020, with plans to reach £65m turnover and £5m profit by the end of next year.

And it has this week announced an acquisition hunt as part of this onward growth.

Of particular interest are organisations with cyber security, artificial intelligence, data consultancy, edtech, SaaS, creative communications or content creation specialisms.

The Group of agencies and consultancies – which currently comprises CDS, CDS Defence & Security, Newspress and Loop – supports clients in a range of sectors, including government, defence, education, financial services, healthcare, housing and automotive.

Group CEO Fergus Bailie said: “When I took over the Group in 2010, turnover was £25m and we employed 200 people.

“Now, we stand at circa £45m and have 340 colleagues – with 20 joining us in the last three months alone.

“Continued investment in our workforce, internal growth projects and corporate acquisitions – of people and property – is part of a three-year plan to build a highly principled £65m business, by the end of 2021.

“We have naturally been cautious during COVID, as we’d be wrong to suggest we haven’t been affected. But we’ve always focused on the sustainable expansion of our organisation, so our position remains strong and our three-year plan on track.

“Our purpose remains clear and guides our decisions – to invest in people and ideas which make a positive difference, and properties that inspire.”

Growth via acquisition is nothing new for the company. In 1977, Bailie Group’s chairman Roy Bailie led the management buy-out of W&G Baird – a then 115-year-old business – from the British Printing Corporation.

A number of acquisitions large and small saw more than 10 brands absorbed into the Group before Fergus Bailie took over three years ago.

He added: “We’ve always been driven by transformative change, which is why – 158 years after our business roots were laid – we’re trusted to deliver some of the most landmark communications projects in modern times.

“Our mission, as we continue to grow, is to create an entrepreneurial collective of collaborative specialists capable of completing briefs that change lives.

“We don’t want to control the organisations we acquire – we want to empower them to utilise the technology and expert knowledge we can offer as a Group, for societal gain.

“I believe in putting experts in place, with a set of guiding principles and then helping them to be successful, rather than telling them what to do.

“I think this provides quite a refreshing change versus investment from private equity or venture capital routes, and this was one of the key reasons for the brand overhaul.”