CPL Completes Management Buyout

CPL are valued members of the Content Marketing Association and have been regular contributors to the reports and events we’ve hosted over the last ten years, as well as picking up a number of awards at our International Content Marketing Awards. I always enjoyed visiting Mike and the team in Cambridge and I look forward to my next trip to see him and the rest of the CPL team.

This week I caught up with Managing Director, Mike Sewell, following the news of their recent Management Buyout. Here’s what he had to say about the last 12 months and what the MBO means for the future of CPL.

Rob John, CMA

Who are CPL?

CPL is a content marketing agency with a 50-strong team based in Cambridge. The agency is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021, and turned over more than £6 million in its last financial year. It was founded by two broadsheet journalists and high-quality editorial standards are a key part of its DNA, with content being delivered across print and digital channels including web, video, animations and podcasts. Clients include membership bodies like the Market Research Society and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, charities like Versus Arthritis and the National Autistic Society, and sporting organisations like Godolphin and the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association. 

Mike Sewell, CPL

Managing Director, Mike Sewell

Mike is the managing director of CPL, having joined the business in 2007. Before that he worked for corporate communications agency Shandwick, having initially trained as a journalist with Eastern Counties Newspapers (now Archant). 

What is a management buyout (MBO)?

In late 2016, Mike agreed a deal to buy out CPL from its two founders over a period of just over four years, although they have retained a shareholding. This was part of a succession strategy that allowed existing senior managers to gain a stake in the business and put CPL in a good position to plan for the future. The MBO was completed in April 2021.  

What does this MBO now allow you to do?

A top priority over the past four years has been to pay off the debt we owed to the founders. Now that process is complete, we can potentially spend our profits on something more interesting! 

What opportunities does this open up for you and the team?

We have achieved some solid organic growth over the past four years. With a bit more cash in the bank, there might be opportunities for growth via other routes, such as an acquisition for example. But we’ll only do this if we genuinely believe it can benefit our business and our client offer.

How have the last 12 months been for CPL?

Good, especially considering the challenges posed by the lockdowns. We have taken a flexible approach with our clients and they have repaid that loyalty. We have won a couple of new clients, including the Association of British Insurers and the Institute of Asset Management, and have also created some fantastic and important work which demonstrates the talent and capabilities we have in this agency. Two great examples are a Covid-related public health campaign and a recruitment marketing campaign

What areas you’re hoping to invest in?

We have some great people in this business with a range of skillsets, but we’ll certainly look to invest in new talent if we feel it can benefit CPL and our clients. 

After a strong financial performance, what’s next for CPL?

To pay ourselves some dividends, as we haven’t done that for four years! We want to go for sustainable growth and as part of that we’re going to spend some time over the next few months going back to first principles and planning our business purpose and strategy for the next few years. We want to involve people from inside and outside CPL in that process. 

Looking ahead, will you be adopting a hybrid approach or a full return to the office?

We’re expecting to adopt some sort of hybrid system and we feel it offers some great opportunities to look at things differently. Our team have done incredibly well in adapting to working from home and I believe our clients have not noticed any negative impact on our service. But we are a creative business and I can’t wait to have more people back in the office so we can ensure the content we create is better than ever.

Check out CPL’s award winning work carried out with Cambridgeshire County Council

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