In these days of teamwork, design is often criticised for being devoid of big personalities. Few have stepped up to fill the boots of industry founders like Terence Conran, Michael Wolff, Wally Olins, Michael Peters and Rodney Fitch.
That is a generalisation and there are still real characters out there, not least the grand acquisitor Charlie Hoult, chief executive of the Loewy Group. Renowned for his youthful vigour, Hoult is refreshingly different as a chief executive, in terms of dress and management style. Yet Loewy, an independent marketing services conglomerate, stunned the design world last year with an array of high-profile acquisitions, having bought branding group Williams Murray Hamm in 2006.
In the design arena, it bought public sector design specialist The Team in March last year, packaging and branding group Epoch Design in July and rounded off its spending spree by acquiring product design star Seymour Powell in September.
Hoult and his colleagues, including finance director Bryan Wilsher, secured financial backing for the deals from two main sources. In July they secured £12m from the private equity group Veronis Suhler Stevenson and topped this up with a further £4m in venture capital from Abry Partners. Under the deal, Abry and VSS each own £8m of the group.
We can expect more acquisitions from Loewy in due course. Whether they will be in design or other marketing services areas remains to be seen, but be prepared for surprises.