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Creative Agency CREO in Six-Figure Management Buy-Out

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The founding director of Cardiff-based creative agency CREO Interactive Limited has completed a management buy-out, selling 75% of the business to his three co-directors.

Creative director Jordan Thorne, strategic director Kat Shaw and technical director Nick Coakley have acquired 75% of CREO from Richard Ward, who retains a 25% share. They become joint owners of the business with a six-figure loan from the Development Bank of Wales secured as finance.

From humble beginnings as a two-man company operating from a small bedroom in 1999, CREO is now one of Wales' most established agencies with a talented team of 12 and a client portfolio that includes Microsoft, BMW, Welsh Government, NHS Wales and Snowdonia National Park.

Richard Ward first established the business alongside Andrew Ashton who he later bought out in 2019. Richard said:

“A large part of our success and growth over the years is down to the talented and dedicated people we have in our team. CREO has been a massive part of my life for the past 22 years and making the decision to hand part of that over meant finding the right management team.

“Having benefited from the support of the Development Bank when I bought out Andrew as co-founder, I knew that it made absolute sense to work with them again on this deal. It’s always been my exit plan to initiate a management buy-out so we’ve spent the last few years preparing for a handover and I am delighted to be able to place CREO's future in the trusted and capable hands of Nick, Kat and Jordan.”

Technical Director Nick Coakley was the first employee when Richard Ward established CREO. He said:

“As CREO’s first ever employee it’s been a pleasure watching CREO grow into something special over the last 20 years. Seeing the company evolve and adapt to an ever changing technical and strategic landscape has been a rewarding and challenging experience and I am really honoured that I now have the opportunity to be part of the team leading the next stage of our journey with the on-going support of Richard as a shareholder.”

Creative director Jordan Thorne joined CREO in 2015. He said:

“I think we’re at an incredibly exciting moment in the organisation's history. We’ve gelled and bedded in as a team over the last two years and really made strides in who we approach and how we approach them. What’s most important for me is the ability to be selective, to really focus on quality clients with shared values. We’ve seen the organisation grow from working within Wales to expanding to the States and beyond but creating quality work that speaks for itself as we do it. However, none of this would be achievable without the backing of the team behind us and we aim to grow that team further to diversify what we can offer our clients. We have a responsibility to highlight and promote how much creativity there is in Wales and bring that to the forefront globally.”

Strategic director Kat Shaw said:

“We’ve developed our offering over recent years and now approach projects from a branding-first perspective. This gives clients better end results with greater return on investment whilst expanding our own product offering. I’m personally looking forward to developing this further and continuing to build a strong branding agency that delivers on clients' digital needs.”

Daniel Kinsey is a portfolio executive with the Development Bank of Wales. He said:

“CREO Interactive has evolved from a website development company into a leading full-service agency that is profitable and has longevity. Having bought out his co-founder in 2019, Richard has first-hand experience of the benefits of a management buy-out. He has therefore focussed on investing in and developing an experienced management team to prepare them for the handover as well as incentivising them to want to be part of the future.

“Nick, Jordan and Kat take control at what has been an incredibly successful few years for the business and will now build upon and implement a new growth strategy with the on-going support of Richard to minimise risk and ensure consistency in terms of client service.”

The funding for the management buy-out came from the £500 million Wales Flexible Investment Fund. Supported by the Welsh Government, the fund is for deals between £25,000 and £10 million. Loans, mezzanine finance, and equity investments are available with flexible terms of up to 15 years.