NEWS7 September 2010

SPA to merge with Future Thinking


UK— SPA has been acquired by private equity firm Next Wave Partners with a view to merging the media research specialist with Future Thinking, another of its investments in the research sector.

The SPA deal was completed last week, said Next Wave partner Jonathan Brod. SPA co-founder and chairman Jon Priest (pictured) is set to run the combined business as group CEO. He has already set to work on a 100-day integration plan.

Priest describes his company and Future Thinking as having “highly complementary offerings”. There’s some overlap, he says, in terms of customer experience and FMCG work – but taking FMCG as an example, Future Thinking tends to focus on the pre-launch end of the research process, offering product and concept development and sales forecasting, while SPA’s work is geared much more towards post-launch brand and advertising tracking and analysis.

The combined businesses will boast turnover of more than £13m, with more than 100 employees and offices in London, Paris, New York and Oxford.

Priest said there are no plans for executive redundancies. In bringing the two firms together, he said, cost-saving benefits would come in areas like data processing, which SPA currently outsources but which Future Thinking can manage in-house, and through securing more competitive rates from online panel companies, for instance.

Future Thinking CEO Chris Sinclair will be leaving the business as a result of the acquisition. Sinclair led a management buyout of the business, which was then known as The Oxford Research Agency, alongside co-director Andrew Tharme, former TRBI CEO Laurence Curtis and Next Wave Partners, in April 2008.

The ownership of Future Thinking was split 60% Next Wave, 40% senior managers, and Brod said the same structure will apply to the combined business.

“Coming out of recession as we are, there is a great opportunity for well-run businesses to come together and increase their scale,” said Brod. “The merged group will benefit from a substantial market presence in the UK and have greater resources to provide exceptional levels of client service internationally.”