Red Flag breaks €1m profit barrier and eyes 40% growth

‘Significant uptick’ in clients from Asia, Africa and South America

Red Flag Consulting, the communications firm run by former Independent News & Media (INM) executive Karl Brophy, broke the €1 million annual profits barrier last year, its latest accounts show.

The firm, whose shareholders and directors also include former INM chief executive Gavin O’Reilly, is forecasting earnings growth of 40 per cent for 2019, as it expands its operations in Europe, Asia and the United States.

The Dublin-headquartered company has also beefed up its board with the appointment of Camilla Rhodes, a former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News UK newspapers group and recent chair of Johnson Press.

Mr O’Reilly, who has chaired Red Flag since its inception in 2013, also recently moved to an executive chairman role, and now works full-time for the business in addition to his board position.


Directors’ pay

The 2018 accounts for Red Flag show a net profit of of just above €1 million, up a fifth on the prior year. The pay pot shared last year by directors grew to above €500,000 from €390,000 in 2017, although shareholders also enjoyed a €1.9 million dividend payout the prior year.

Mr Brophy and his wife, Deirdre Grant, control about 75 per cent of Red Flag, Mr O'Reilly owns about 9 per cent, while senior staff also own small stakes.

Red Flag specialises in public affairs lobbying and broader communications across a range of industries including food and technology. It has lobbied for clients including medicinal cannabis firms and the drinks industry.

It now has 46 staff spread across offices in Dublin, Brussels, Paris, London, Singapore, Washington, Berlin and Cape Town.

Mr Brophy said the firm has seen “a significant uptick” in clients from Asia, Africa and South America, while it also expects to win more business lobbying European authorities in Brussels.

"We anticipate the new European Commission will be a more activist and interventionist one, especially in sectors in which we have significant expertise and knowledge," said Mr Brophy.

The firm also recently hired a general counsel, Simon Kneel, formerly of top tier London law firm Freshfields.

Red Flag, Mr Brophy and Mr O’Reilly have been involved in a number of recent legal actions, including against Mr O’Brien, who alleged the firm was involved in lobbying against him.

Red Flag is seeking to have the case struck out, while Mr Brophy and Mr O’Reilly are also suing INM, where Denis O’Brien was previously the main shareholder, for allegedly mishandling their personal data.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times