Ben Lilley to acquire Red Engine SCC and roll assets into The Red Republic

Three months after acquiring McCann Worldgroup Australia, Ben Lilley is purchasing creative agency Red Engine SCC, Mumbrella can reveal.

Lilley is taking ownership of Red Engine’s assets and merging them into McCann Worldgroup’s partner public relations agency, The Red Republic, in order to bolster its content offering.

Red Engine’s assets have been acquired by Lilley, leaving the company to continue the administration process

Speaking to Mumbrella, Lilley revealed that the deal has been on the table for some time. After Red Engine SCC entered administration earlier this month, the acquisition deal accelerated.

He said that Red Engine SCC’s founder Julian Townley reached out after Lilley’s announcement that he was seeking further acquisitions, and the conversation went on from there.

“After I acquired McCann, and then also obviously also indicated that I was looking to bring other independent agencies and independent agency offerings into our broader, integrated creative services group, Julian made contact with me to introduce himself and talk about what he was doing. I was immediately interested in that because, particularly, his creative services offering and Red Engine’s creative services and content offering is actually a perfect fit for what we’ve been looking at integrating with The Red Republic,” Lilley explained to Mumbrella.

The sale of assets also includes the Red Engine SCC brand which will be rolled into The Red Republic business. It also means that Red Engine itself will continue to go through the administration process to settle its debts. Lilley said the plan was to effectively reboot the business within The Red Republic.

“I mean, obviously, we wouldn’t buy the company because it’s in administration. But there’s still a lot of good people and there’s a lot of really good clients that’ve been in the business. And, there’s a lot of good work and a lot of good assets there and so forth. So, rather than having everything just kind of disappear, we can at least buy that and then effectively reboot it as part of The Red Republic,” he told Mumbrella.

Lilley said Red Engine’s offering was a ‘perfect fit’ for The Red Republic

Lilley hopes that all of Red Engine’s clients will come across to The Red Republic, but recognises that it is “not a super straightforward” process. Similarly, once the business has been integrated, he hopes to hire as many Red Engine staff as possible. This will be a process that “evolves over time” so Lilley was unable to speculate on how many staff or clients it may be.

“I can’t give you a definitive answer on that because the process involves us purchasing whatever assets we can, but because those assets will now be housed in a different company and will be run by different company, we have to offer different or new employment agreements to staff to come across.

“And then, we have to sign up the clients as new clients, new Red Republic clients, but still to receive the same Red Engine services and then also where appropriate, we can then also offer Red Republic’s extended PR services as well,” Lilley said.

Townley will be moving across with the business and said he was looking forward to joining forces with Lilley and The Red Republic managing director, Mia Hamilton.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to be joining Ben, Mia and The Red Republic’s national offering. Ben’s entrepreneurial ambition and track record speak for themselves and this is an exciting new stage of creative growth for our Red Engine SCC staff and clients alike. Our creative content experience and capabilities align seamlessly with The Red Republic’s integrated offering and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect new home for our business,” he said in a statement.

Hamilton added: “We are extremely excited to join forces with Red Engine SCC and take our content production to the next level. Content is king and it’s important to us that we’re offering clients the most creative solutions possible as we grow and expand. I’m thrilled to be working with Julian Townley and his team and can’t wait to make some incredible work for our clients.”

The acquisition of Red Engine SCC is reminiscent of the way Lilley built his agency SMART during the Global Financial Crisis, which saw him take on creative agency VCD/Kindred, retail specialist The Foundry, digital agency Illuminati, Turner Sands and Logan Meo Walters.

Lilley said that despite seeing the parallels between the two periods, McCann Worldgroup Australia will pull through better than SMART did as he has been able to take his learnings from the Global Financial Crisis and better position the agency to weather the current economic climate.

“SMART only just scraped through the Global Financial Crisis,” Lilley revealed.

“That was a very difficult period for us, not just during the crisis but afterwards as well. And there were many other agencies at that time who similarly struggled, who didn’t make it through. And we were able to, again acquire those businesses. There are a lot of companies that went into administration or or eventually went into liquidation as a result of the Global Financial Crisis. And sadly, we will see the same again today.”

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have gone through the global financial crisis, as I did, with an intact company that was able to thrive afterwards. And I’m even more fortunate that from that experience, I’ve been able to provide many of the really tough lessons that we learned from that… We’ve applied those immediately as well to how we were able to prepare McCann in Australia for the current crisis.”

Lilley said this has enabled his company to provide a “financially secure home” for companies that are financially struggling, but want to support their staff and clients.

He intends to continue acquiring agencies across all disciplines, including creative, PR, digital and media.

The acquisition of McCann back in February saw Lilley’s return to the business, two years after stepping down as CEO and creative chairman. The Red Republic was acquired by McCann during Lilley’s first stint as CEO in 2016.


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