New owner and expansion plans at ITG

By Jo Francis, Friday 13 October 2017

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Outsourcer Inspired Thinking Group (ITG) has a new owner and is planning a “huge push” into the US market.


ITG: big plans to grow beyond the UK

Bridgepoint Development Capital has exited from its investment in the marketing services company, selling its majority stake in Birmingham-headquartered ITG to Equistone Partners Europe. Bridgepoint had held the investment for three-and-a-half years.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Equistone said it had invested alongside the company's management. 

This is the third private equity investment in fast-growing ITG, which posted sales of £75.8m in the year to 31 August 2016, up almost 30% on 2015. It made an operating margin of 5.6% and filed pre-tax profits of £4.1m. The group employs more than 550 staff.

The company was founded in 2009 by Simon Ward, one of the co-founders of SP Digital, which went on to acquire SP Group. SP was subsequently sold to St Ives with Ward spending four-and-a-half years at the PLC before he left and set up ITG.

Bridgepoint Development Capital partner Adrian Willetts said that ITG had expanded significantly during the firm’s period of ownership. “The business also grew revenues strongly with organic profits doubling during our investment period. With the benefit of this increased scale and service capability, it is now well placed to grow further under new shareholders.”

Equistone said ITG would post sales of around £90m for the financial year ended August 2017. Partner Paul Harper described ITG as creating an “innovative and disruptive business model”. He said: “We are delighted to be supporting Simon and his team to continue driving ITG forward.

“The opportunity to accelerate growth through further investment in the service proposition and international expansion is significant.”

ITG works for a host of blue-chip clients including Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Heineken, Audi, Puma and KFC.

Its offering includes digital services, a 24/7 content creation studio, print management, strategic planning and creative. The studio produces over a million artworks for clients every year.

Chief executive Ward said he was proud of what the business had achieved so far, and the firm now planned a “huge push into the US market” alongside accelerated growth in Europe.

In its 2016 financial year 95% of sales came from the UK.

“We set out to be a disruptor in the sector and continue to achieve this. The speed with which the company has established itself as a leading marketing services provider is a reflection of the amazing team we have at ITG and the continued support we have received from our investors at each stage of our growth trajectory.”

The company’s new strapline is “intelligent marketing made simple”.

Ward said Equistone was a great fit for the business, and would support its ambitious plans for international expansion. “We’re seeing a revolution in marketing delivery, with the world’s most successful businesses looking for continuous innovation in areas such as automation, data-driven customer communications and the migration from print to digital,” he added.

Further M&A could also be on the cards. ITG acquired retail strategy agency Vitamin in 2015 and added eCRM business Creator, now ITG Creator, last year.

Over the summer ITG expanded its facilities at Fort Dunlop, adding an additional 300sqm of space and taking its total to more than 2,230sqm.

The firm also has offices in London, New York and Chicago and on the continent. 

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