It was just another quiet Friday afternoon in events agency land– or so we thought – when the latest Zibrant deal was announced. Less than two years after Nigel Cooper bought Zibrant for £2.9m as former parent company Motivcom was acquired by Sodexo for £41m (also revealed late on a Friday), news broke on 22 July that BCD Meetings & Events has acquired Zibrant, signalling yet another new chapter in the agency’s remarkable history.
This time the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed – leaving the industry guessing – but the acquisition includes all 130 of Zibrant’s staff and sees Cooper take on the role of UK managing director at BCD M&E.
It’s fair to say most people in the industry didn’t see this deal coming, especially after the shock of the Brexit vote when experts predicted that major investments and M&A activity could slow. In contrast, prior to the Sodexo deal, the rumour mill around agency acquisitions had been buzzing for months.
Since its early days as IBR/Illico, Zibrant has been subject to its fair share of M&A activity. Its acquisition by Motivcom for a cool £15m back in October 2007 gave it scale, and its financials, combined with sister agencies P&MM and AYMTM, enabled Motivcom to top C&IT’s Top 50 Agencies table for several years.
But what’s different is the BCD M&E deal puts Zibrant firmly on the global stage.
Overnight, it has access to a network of 47 offices, providing massive opportunities for growth and enabling it to compete for global pitches against the likes of Ashfield Meetings & Events and CWT M&E, which Cooper himself admits is a challenge.
And, with the trend for major corporates to consolidate agencies globally and strategic meetings management programmes (SMMP – a key focus for BCD M&E) gaining traction, not to mention the implications of the Brexit vote, the ability to offer global reach cannot be underestimated.
This deal is also vital for BCD M&E. Although the company has been one of the top UK players, it has not had the brand presence that Zibrant has.
Its appointment last summer of Anthony Coyle- Dowling, a former Zibrant global sales director, has raised awareness. But the addition of a 130-strong team, plus the gravitas of Cooper and Fay Sharpe, elevates its status. Indeed, the combined UK event- based turnover of the two agencies would make BCD M&E a top-five agency in C&IT’s annual ranking. Zibrant sits in eighth, (UK turnover: £17.6m), with BCD M&E 16th (£15.2m).
We, along with the rest of the C&I industry, will be watching keenly to see how the global chapter in the Zibrant story develops. Will there be a new number one in next year’s agency ranking?
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