Connect merges with Stratagem to build ‘unrivalled’ public affairs offer

  • Projecting £3m revenue, the company will be one of the UK’s leading independents focussed on public affairs
  • Acquisition is first deal by fast-growing Connect since 2016 MBO
  • Gráinne Walsh will lead Stratagem in Belfast and joins Connect’s top team
Andy Sawford, managing partner of Connect; Gráinne Walsh, director of Stratagem;
Quintin Oliver, founder of Stratagem

Connect, the Westminster-based public affairs and planning communications specialist, has today joined with Stratagem, Northern Ireland’s largest public affairs agency. While technically an acquisition, it is positioned as a merger, with Stratagem continuing to operate with its own highly successful brand.   

The initiative comes at a pivotal political moment, with Northern Ireland playing a key role in Westminster politics and Brexit negotiations.

The move grows the overall Connect group team to 35 consultants and its projected group fee income to £3m, making it one of the UK’s largest public affairs focussed agencies that is independently owned.  

Gráinne Walsh, Stratagem’s head of consultancy since 2013, will take over the role of director from Quintin Oliver. Gráinne will lead the Stratagem team in Belfast and become a member of the Connect leadership team. 

Andy Sawford, managing partner of Connect, said: Having grown our income organically by 50 per cent since 2016’s management buyout, Connect has been looking for the right opportunity to catalyse the next phase of our growth. There is a huge opportunity for us and Stratagem to grow together. Connect and Stratagem are a great fit, with closely aligned values, complementary products and services, and a shared commitment to setting high standards. Joining up with Belfast’s biggest public affairs firm creates an unrivalled client offer at a time when Northern Ireland is playing a pivotal role in UK and European affairs.”

Gráinne Walsh, director of Stratagem, said: Today’s news represents an exciting opportunity for Stratagem. We would like to thank and pay tribute to Quintin for his vision in founding Stratagem and leadership to make us Northern Ireland’s number one public affairs agency. Quintin’s dedication and passion for politics and our business has seen Stratagem thrive and deliver outstanding results. These are changing times in politics and public policy, and it is now the right time for Stratagem to become part of a UK wide team with Connect and broaden our client offer.” 

Quintin Oliver, founder of Stratagem, explained: Stratagem has defined the public affairs market in Northern Ireland ever since the Good Friday Agreement two decades ago. Bringing Stratagem together with Connect makes huge sense at this stage, with talks underway, hopefully for the Assembly and Executive to return, and with the Brexit drama unfolding around us, across these islands.   

The joint business will bring added scale, investment and strong relationships with key policy-makers, opinion-formers and political institutions. I am pleased that the team at Stratagem will continue, headed by Gráinne Walsh and I wish them well as I now take a step away to concentrate on other projects.”


Andy Sawford by:
Andy Sawford