Murgitroyd chief declares door open for more deals

THE chief executive of Murgitroyd, the Glasgow-based trademark and intellectual property practice, has underlined its appetite for further acquisitions after completing a brace of deals in the latter part of 2021.

Gordon Stark outlined the ambitions held by the long-established firm which he said are backed by the firepower of its private equity owner.

Murgitroyd, which was established by the late Ian Murgitroyd in 1975, was acquired by London-based Sovereign Capital Partners in December 2019 in a deal that valued the business at around £65 million. The firm had been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2001.

Since becoming part of Sovereign, Murgitroyd has showed its willingness to make acquisitions to expand. In August 2021 it completed a deal to acquire Dublin-based Hanna Moore + Curley, a move that strengthened its presence in Europe and the Far East. And it quickly followed that in October with the acquisition of UDL Intellectual Property in a transaction that looked to be worth than £10m.

The effect of the acquisitions was to cement Murgitroyd’s status as one of the largest IP firms in Europe with a headcount of around 440 people operating out of 20 offices across the UK and European Union. The firm also has client liaison offices in the US and China.

Mr Stark, who joined Murgitroyd in 1998 and rose to become chief executive in 2020, told The Herald: “It’s been a very positive time… we have made two acquisitions, one in August, one in October. That’s brought us a meaningful step forward in growth – [a] 40 per cent increase in the size of the company [with] about 100 new colleagues, taking us up to 440 across the business. And it’s really been the first step to delivering a scaled-up growth ambition.”

Asked if the current growth strategy flowed directly from its acquisition by Sovereign two years ago, Mr Stark, who has an academic background in biotechnology, said: “Absolutely, the recent growth is reflective and realisation of that growth ambition. What they [Sovereign] bring is not just financial backing, but support of our strategy and vision for growth. Some of that has started to be realised by the recent acquisitions.”

On whether Murgitroyd was actively looking to do more deals, he added: “Yes. Our growth plans involve a combination of both organic growth and acquisitive growth. We have a pipeline of businesses that we are talking to all the time. What’s important to us is the correct curation of businesses, particularly in a people-focused business. Getting the right fit culturally and strategically is hugely important.”

The acquisitions at Murgitroyd come against a backdrop of consolidation in the wider market of IP and trademark legal services. If anything, Mr Stark said he would have expected to have seen more consolidation, citing the example of the accountancy sector. But he noted that the pace is starting to pick up.

“We’re starting to see consolidation in the intellectual property adviser market,” Mr Stark said. “In many ways, we are positioning ourselves to be at the forefront of that consolidation. We feel the pace of change around consolidation is increasing.”

Mr Stark said integrating new people and businesses presents different challenges in the pandemic era. He noted Murgitroyd has taken steps to strengthen its leadership team to help with the process, and highlighted the recruitment of Helen Archibald from Dundee’s Thorntons Solicitors as chief operating officer as a key move. He said Ms Archibald “brings additional experience and resource around integration of acquisitions.”

Acquisition is not the only means through which Murgitroyd is generating growth. The pandemic has also seen the birth of new enterprises and ideas, many focused on the digital world. Murgitroyd has witnessed the major trends first-hand in its work.

“As has been common in many sectors, Covid has sped up the pace of innovation and change,” Mr Stark said. “We already saw as a backdrop, coming into Covid, some large macro trends with our clients, for example oil and gas repositioning into renewables and green tech.

“We see our clients in the automotive sector already moving from internal combustion engines into electric motors and battery technology. We see our clients in the brand area trying to understand where the future lies with virtual, digital goods. So there’s been a lot of change.

“Then, on top of that, Covid has made many businesses think around how they operate, how they deliver to their clients. Innovation has been central to so much of that change. It has been a very buoyant time in terms of businesses innovating and looking to protect that innovation.”

Along with the excitement of acquisitions and helping clients protect their innovations, the year just gone by was also tinged with sadness at Murgitroyd. On February 3, 2021, the firm’s founder, Ian Murgitroyd, passed away suddenly.

For Mr Stark and other staff, it was a devastating blow that “left us in shock”. He said Mr Murgitroyd, whom he had worked alongside for 20 years until the Sovereign deal, had left a “huge legacy” that he and his colleagues were determined to continue.

Six Questions

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?
Being part of a business with an international footprint has brought travel opportunities. Japan and Nicaragua 
– insightful in understanding business culture and practices; West Coast USA always brings new ideas. 

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?
I always had an attraction to being in business, in particular to identifying new ideas and opportunities and seeing what could be made of them.

What was your biggest break in business?
My first job with Murgitroyd shortly after graduating; there’s an enduring confidence and gratitude that comes from a company believing you can make a difference and that it will invest in your development.

What was your worst moment in business?
The sudden death of the company’s founder Ian Murgitroyd so soon after stepping back from the business he created. I spent 20 years working with and learning from him, as he led the growth of a global business.

Who do you most admire and why?
Eliud Kipchoge, the only person to run a sub two-hour marathon. There is a lot to learn from his humble outlook on life and performs under pressure.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?
Return On Experience by Tim Kobe, the visionary behind the design of Apple’s retail stores. I’m listening to The Best Of David Gray

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.