Ankura Consulting Group acquires US c3/consulting, adds 120 consultants

05 April 2018

c3/consulting, Nashville’s leading management consulting firm, has completed its sale to Washington D.C. headquartered Ankura. The transaction, which is anticipated to close by the end of the month, will see Ankura push its headcount across the 500 milestone, while enabling c/3 to expand its profile across the United States.

Founded in 2014 by incumbent CEO Roger D. Carlile, Ankura Consulting provides management consulting and expert services to businesses. The Washington D.C. headquartered firm’s offerings include bankruptcy and corporate restructuring, corporate investigation, dispute and litigation support, among other services. The company also provides this support to its clients from additional US offices in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Dallas, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Ankura has been working for some time to rapidly enlarge its profile in high-value sectors, and just two years after its founding, Roger D. Carlile said the company had grown to $50 million in annual revenue. In 2016, Ankura targeted the continuation of this expansion, as the firm received a $100 million strategic growth commitment from Madison Dearborn Partners. Ankura quickly put the funds to use, growing its headcount to around 150 employees with the acquisition of advisory firm ARPC. The integration of the two firms saw Ankura up-scale its Texan base, relocating its 90 Dallas-based employees to a new office in the city’s downtown district.

Ankura Consulting Group + c/3 consulting

Two years later, and now employing over 450 professionals across North America, Ankura has sought to continue to supplement its growth trajectory via inorganic means, acquiring another Southern-States management consulting firm, in the shape of c3/consulting, for an undisclosed fee. Ankura’s leaders will hope the move enhances the firm’s strategy and operational consulting capabilities, while c3 perceives it as an opportunity to expand its reach across the country. c3’s 118 professionals will integrate into Ankura, creating a firm with over 575 professionals and 14 offices located throughout the US and Puerto Rico.

c3/consulting was founded in 2005, in the humble beginnings of the living room of Beth R. Chase, according to the firm’s CEO. Since then, the consulting firm has become Nashville’s largest management consultancy, and one of the 10 largest women-owned businesses in Middle Tennessee. The firm’s clients include a number of Fortune 500 and private equity-backed growth companies across multiple industries, and public and private sectors. Chase herself has also been recognised for her influence by Inc. 5000, EY, and the Nashville Business Journal.

c3’s founder and CEO, Beth R. Chase, who also joins Ankura, said, “I stand amazed by the collaborative contribution of our entire team in building this firm, from our special culture to the extraordinary service we provide to clients across the country. Joining Ankura will allow us to provide even greater opportunities for our team and increased value to our clients as part of a broader national platform, while we continue to be actively involved in the Nashville community.”

Ankura’s CEO, Roger D. Carlile, meanwhile remarked, “Important to us and our clients is the cultural fit – both firms share a collaborative, client-focused, and people-centric culture. The combination of c3 and Ankura is another important step in our journey to build a unique business advisory firm defined by how we solve challenges that enable, optimise, protect and sustain value for our clients.”

Deal advisory

Merger and acquisitions specialist firm Equiteq advised the sell-side of the deal. The transaction was the latest in a succession of M&A activities completed with the help of the global consultancy, including the acquisitions of Ducker Worldwide and Axentel Technologies in February.

Nicodemo Esposito, Managing Director of Equiteq’s North America practice, also highlighted the cultural fit between the two firms, commenting, “Beth Chase and the c3 team have built an extraordinary business with an impressive roster of blue chip clients, best-in-class capabilities, and a great culture.  We thoroughly enjoyed working with management and congratulate the entire c3 team on this exciting milestone.”

Regarding Equiteq’s role in the transaction, Beth Chase added, “As a management consulting firm, we understand the benefit of working with people who have expertise and proven methodologies that deliver results. It is also incredibly important to us that we partner with people we like and trust. Equiteq delivered on both fronts and were essential in helping us navigate this important inflection point for our organisation.”


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Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.