O’Reilly and Brophy to plant Red Flag in Singapore and Australia

PR firm buys Singapore-based Bowlah PR, founded by Longford woman Caroline Bowler

Red Flag, the Irish public relations agency chaired by Gavin O’Reilly, is to expand further with the opening later this week of new offices in Singapore and Melbourne.

The group, founded in 2013 by former Independent News and Media (INM) journalist Karl Brophy, its chief executive, has concluded a deal to buy Singapore-based communications agency Bowlah PR.

Bowlah is focused on serving financial technology clients and was founded in the Asian city-state in recent years by Longford native Caroline Bowler, who will join Red Flag as its head of Asia-Pacific.

Bowlah has since expanded into the Australian market with a Melbourne office. Both of the operations will now be rebranded as Red Flag.

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The group now has offices in eight cities globally, including its largest unit in Brussels, which is primarily focused on public affairs and lobbying. Red Flag also has offices in Dublin, London, Paris, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, as well as the two new former Bowlah offices in Singapore and Melbourne.

Over the coming months, Red Flag expects to hire about 25 new staff and to widen its network of partner agencies abroad. It currently employs about 40 staff, as well as several consultants.

US lobbyist

Red Flag has in recent months reorganised its senior management team. It recently hired US lobbyist Melissa San Miguel as its head of policy, based in Washington. She previously worked for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a US lobby group whose members include PepsiCo, Kelloggs and Mondelez, owner of Cadbury. She previously spent nine years as a diplomat at the US state department.

Deirdre Grant, a former Irish government adviser, who is also married to Mr Brophy, has taken over as managing director of its Irish office. She has joined the agency from Teneo PSG, where she headed up its public affairs unit.

Shane Fitzgerald, a former Diageo executive, has also taken over as Red Flag's director of campaigns in recent months.

Last September, it also hired former White House adviser Andy Hemming as a consultant.

Doubling of profits

Red Flag is also due to file its annual accounts in the coming weeks, which will show a doubling of profits to more than €1 million over 2017, which includes the period covering the opening of its new US operation.

Revenues are also understood to have doubled, although its top line may not be revealed in its accounts. However,a year ago, Red Flag was believed to have been forecasting group revenues of at least €4 million.

In its home country, Red Flag has also gained prominence as the respondent in a civil court case filed by businessman Denis O’Brien, who previously clashed with Mr Brophy and Mr O’Reilly when he was battling for control of INM.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column