Communications giant with eyes on £65m turnover announces acquisition trail

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Family-owned communication specialist The Baird Group has revealed a fresh identity and a completely new name, as the 158-year-old 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 passionate about pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation, the team has this week announced an acquisition hunt, which looks set to prove pivotal to 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. Typically delivering projects which keep people safer, help the UK transport system move more effectively, and better connect citizens with social services, for example, the goal is to strengthen the Group’s portfolio by acquiring further talent that can make a positive difference to UK society.

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

Purposeful 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 took over three years ago.

When asked what the management team is looking for from the next business to join the Group, Fergus said: “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. We’re not just a faceless holding company, and the rebrand is just the start of us highlighting that. Creating a family culture that embraces everyone in the Group is a key pillar of our beliefs.”

Assignments completed by Bailie Group brands to date include:

  • Delivery of a Single Online Home for all UK police services – the most significant change to UK policing since the 999 roll out in 1976. 60% of UK citizens now have access to this digital crime reporting platform.
  • Helping to train the military to be the best they can be, having digitalised academic learning for the British Army and progressing 3,260 soldiers through formal qualifications in 12 months.
  • Building National Rail Enquiries journey planner, which received 4 million daily page visits with 99.99% availability.
  • Achieving £440,000 print savings for the Ministry of Defence in only 12 months.
    • Developing a case management system for Social Work England. Containing 32 million data entries from day one, this tool is now used by over 96,000 social workers.