Stewart Pimbley IPB Communications MD

Stewart Pimbley

IPB, a communications agency with offices in Sale and Durham, has changed hands, with the founder and majority shareholder, Tony Ingham, selling his controlling stake to Stewart Pimbley and Steve Fox.

The acquisition was completed before Christmas.

IPB was launched in January 2002.

The agency’s focus for the first few years was almost entirely on the public sector and engagement although in recent years this remit has broadened out to embrace clients, such as Tesco, with their public consultation needs.

Ingham and four colleagues – Pimbley and Fox and Diane MacCarthy and Catherine Bellis –  founded the agency following what was at the time a highly publicised and acrimonious departure from then leading PR agency Staniforth.

Ingham, a former programme director with Piccadilly Radio, had earlier left broadcasting to establish a public sector consultation offering within Staniforth’s more consumer-focused operation.

IPB prospered and at its peak (pre recession 2008), the agency was enjoying turnover approaching £2m on which it was generating profits of circa £600,000 and with public finances at the time still buoyant, the agency opened a second office in Durham.

However, the sharp reduction in public spending, post 2008, which drove many others out of business, clearly affected IPB with its business primarily focused on public service clients. However, managing director Stewart Pimbley, told Prolific North that turnover and fees had now been stable for the past couple of years and were comfortably above £1million again and that the agency was, and indeed had always remained, quite profitable: albeit not at the levels once enjoyed.

The agency currently provides consultancy services to eight housing associations and a number of corporates including Tesco, Barratts (the house builder) and Npower, the latter related to work in the renewable sector.

In addition to Pimbley and Fox, there are 10 other staff across the two offices.

Tony Ingham

Tony Ingham

Ingham had 66% of the business with Pimbley holding the balance. Steve Fox has bought some of Ingham’s former shareholding.

Ingham said the deal: “had been reached quite amicably and after a decade doing our own thing very successfully, the other directors approached me and offered to buy my shares, allowing them more control of the agency’s future direction and enabling me, once I’ve had some time to reflect, to seek out some new challenges.”

Prolific North understands that John Quinton-Barber, a director of IPB, also left the agency at the time of the acquisition but that his departure had more to do with a desire to do something new for himself.