There are not many individuals in the Scottish design industry that have been at its heart for as long as Ken Cassidy.
However, this week saw him take a step away from the coalface as Pointsize, the business he helped launch 21 years ago, was acquired by borders-based design agency Wolffe & Co.
The acquisition sees Wolffe&Co buy 100 percent of the shares in Pointsize, for an undiscolsed fee, in a deal financed by Lloyds TSB.
The move sees Cassidy, a former Scottish Managing Director of the Year, reduce his working hours in the expanded design business – one of the longest-established in Scotland.
“Pointsize has 21 years of great reputation and work. Wolffe & co has great experience over 10 years. We thought it would be beneficial to bring the two together,” says Andrew Wolffe, founder and creative director at Wolffe & Co.
“Both businesses are about the same size. We are doubling our turnover to over the million pound mark, which makes us a good-sized player in the Scottish marketplace.”
The deal forms a key part of a 'growth by acquisition' strategy undertaken by Wolffe, and, at the same, time secures the succession of Pointsize for founder and managing director Ken Cassidy, who is stepping down from the sharp end of high profile design after more than two decades in business.
Andrew Wolffe will become creative managing director of the enlarged agency, which will be called Pointsize Wolffe & Co.
Both offices – in Castle Douglas and in Glasgow – and all staff will be retained, with Cassidy becoming chairman, working in a part-time capacity. The two offices will retain joint priority status, with no HQ adopted by the enlarged agency.
Wolffe also stressed that the acquisition was not undertaken to establish a presence in the central belt for the borders-based team. Rather, it was simply a good opportunity to grow.
Cassidy, however, will maintain ownership of the Glasgow building, based in Tradeston – now a sizeable asset as the area develops quickly – with Pointsize Wolffe & Co leasing the space.
Wolffe and Cassidy have known each other for a number of years and have a shared vision for the future of the business, according to Wolffe.
The deal is the first part of a growth by acquisition strategy undertaken by the Dumfries-based design agency, which went through on 1 August, after a very brief final discussion period. And, it is likely that this is not the last acquisition for the ambitions new team.
Both men had objectives in mind to secure the future for their companies, but on very different fashions.
“Ken and I had been talking for quite a while. We have known each other since we worked together in the mid-90s. Ken was talking about succession and I was talking about growth. Succession for him meant growth for me, if we could make it work,” Wolffe told The Drum.
“We sat down on the 1 of May and completed the deal on the 1 August.” Considering the maturity of the businesses concerned, quite a quick turnaround.
The team now consists of 13 staff, split between the offices – six in Castle Douglas, seven in Glasgow.
“Our businesses are roughly the same size, so this acquisition made absolute sense. I believe this deal represents a positive synergy between two successful, design-led organisations, and the enlarged business will enhance our capability in terms of expertise, capacity and effectiveness,” says Wolffe.
Ken Cassidy stays on in a consultancy capacity, working two days a week to “retain, maintain and develop” new clients for the Glasgow office.
He said he was delighted to be passing the baton of day-to-day running to Wolffe, and believed that the time was right for him to step away from the frontline of the industry. “At Pointsize we have great staff and I believe the coming together of our companies will be of benefit to them and our clients. I shall join the 'seniors tour' but look forward to working with Andrew to ensure we deliver to our existing and future clients.”
“After 21 years being at the sharp end of the business, it seemed to be a good time to move on. It’s a great team, and they will take the business on from here.”
Wolffe added, “We have the same number of people and similar technology. The client lists are quite different, however, and we operate in different sectors; so there are different portfolios coming together, which makes for a very strong combined portfolio.”
From the outset of talks, it was apparent that both men shared the desire to ensure stability for each separate company by retaining both business platforms and personnel, a factor that was instrumental in any deal being agreed.
“I’d like to acknowledge Ken’s professionalism in it all,” says Wolffe. “Pointsize is in great shape, and credit to Ken. He has really worked hard to make this work. Both teams are very enthusiastic about it. Both Ken and I have been in bigger businesses, but we are back in the Premier League as far as profile is concerned.”
Pointsize is a leading design company formed 21 years ago by managing director Ken Cassidy and Jim Cairns. The business has won numerous awards over the years. In 2003, Ken was named Managing Director of the Year at the Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year awards.
Pointsize clients include The Universities of Paisley and Glasgow; Scottish Enterprise Network and Glasgow City Council.
Wolffe & Co.
Andrew Wolffe established Wolffe & Co. in 1998, and from its base in Dumfries and Galloway the business services clients across the UK and Europe.
Prior to establishing Wolffe & Co Andrew trained at Edinburgh College of Art. He worked at Tayburn in Edinburgh, becoming creative director.
Wolffe and Co's current clients include The Westin Turnberry Resort; Sheraton Fota Island Golf Resort and Spa, Cork and Tullibardine Distillery.