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End of an era as Elmwood announces demerger and Sands refocuses on Leeds


Global brand design consultancy, Elmwood, is demerging its operations, as founder Jonathan Sands prepares to “hand on the baton.”

The plans will also mean the end of the Elmwood name in Leeds, where it’s been based since Sands founded the company in 1977.

He explained that now was the time to hand on the baton and demerge its Leeds and Melbourne operations from the rest of the global business (London, New York and Singapore), to enable the “next generation of Elmwood leaders to run the show.”

“Elmwood has been my life’s work having been at the helm for almost forty years.  Back in 1989 I was handed a baton when we orchestrated a management buy-out but it’s never only ever just been my business,” he explained.

“Now with a big birthday approaching and the business enjoying a rich vein of talent at all levels it feels like my job here is largely done and so it is the time to plan for handing that baton on successfully across all five studios.”

Sands has also revealed that he will be diluting his personal shareholding to give equity stakes to the leadership teams across all studios.

He explained that he would remain linked to Elmwood and return to Leeds as Chairman. 

“While I am very proud of those studios and the great way that they have developed and grown, the old adage that ‘home is where the heart is’ has become ever more the real truth for me.

“Since opening in Melbourne in 2004 I have more than 60 stamps to Australia in my passport and the same for the US. I have loved my time travelling and building those studios but now is the time to return to my roots.”

He added that the Global, Melbourne and Leeds studios had been running independently of each other for some time.

“Now more than ever there is a need to be more agile, from Brexit one day to a global pandemic the next and with new digital disrupters entering with new channels and technologies the rules of engagement constantly change.  We need to be immersed and up close and personal with our client businesses like never before almost as if part of that business,” he stated.

“With our global business acting as a brand guardian for a number of global corporations they need to personally man mark their clients in their key hubs around the world.  Our Leeds and Melbourne studios even though they operate internationally don’t need to have that studio presence on the ground and its this recognition of different clients’ needs plus the acceleration of changes in ways of working following COVID 19 which has led to the demerger of these two studios.”

Leeds will continue to be led by Sarah Dear, as Managing Partner, alongside Wander Bruijel and Sabrina Ahmed. However, it will be rebranded following the demerger to showcase its new offerings.

The other global operations will retain the Elmwood name.

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