Red Flag Consulting, the Irish company founded by former Independent News & Media communications executive Karl Brophy, increased its profits by 43 per cent in 2016 to €456,964 following a strong year of expansion.
This has continued into this year with the consulting group recently opening an office in Washington DC, which is being led by John Collins, who was vice-president for international policy with the American Bankers' Association.
Red Flag has a number of large clients in the US in the food, biotech and alcoholic drinks sectors, and works on regulatory issues and campaigns. It is also expected to target work on the mid-term elections in the US next year.
The company also has a presence in Dublin, London, Paris and Brussels and is forecasting revenues of €4 million for 2017 and growth of at least 60 per cent in its profit after tax.
Like many other consulting groups, Red Flag has benefited from the uncertainty created by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the White House, with clients seeking advice on a range of issues.
The number of full-time staff increased last year from 12 to 14, supplemented by consultants who are hired as required to work on big campaigns for clients.
The company undertook client work across 14 countries on four continents and secured a number of new big client accounts, including with Monsanto and Anitox, a global pathogen control specialist.
Red Flag was set up in 2013 and has been profitable each year. It is chaired by Gavin O'Reilly, a former chief executive of INM and a son of Sir Anthony O'Reilly. Speaking to The Irish Times from his base in Los Angeles, Mr O'Reilly said: "It's a very interesting business. It has real momentum, with a great team of people. We will possibly look for further geographical expansion this year. 2016 was a phenomenal year for us in spite of all the external noise with court cases."
This is a reference to high-profile legal actions taken by businessman Denis O’Brien against Red Flag, alleging conspiracy and defamation.
Mr O'Brien has appealed a decision by the High Court to refuse to order Red Flag to discover documents revealing the identity of its client for a dossier of material about the businessman.
Mr O’Brien alleges that the material is mostly unfavourable to him and is defamatory. The Court of Appeal hearing has been set for March 2018.
It is understood that Red Flag’s legal bill from these actions, which date back to 2015, stands at about €1.4 million.
Red Flag’s latest accounts show that it closed last year with €1.27 million in capital and reserves, up from €811,447 a year earlier.
Employee payroll costs rose by 14 per cent to €892,841 while directors’ remuneration declined marginally to €432,874.
Mr Brophy is a former journalist and was director of corporate affairs and content development with INM during the latter stages of Mr O’Reilly’s time as chief executive. Both of them left the media company in 2012.