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RYVL – formerly The Marketing Group – goes into administration with ‘no future’ or hope of rescue

RYVL, the rebranded vehicle for The Marketing Group, has entered into administration, it has been revealed. 

The development was first announced via a post on the firm’s Twitter account. 

This marks an end to a company, which started in Singapore in 2015 as an “agglomeration” of independent agencies – with the lofty ambitions of being an alternative to global holding companies like WPP, Publicis Groupe and Omnicom.

The original configuration of the group included Black Marketing, Creative Insurgence and One9ninety – all based in Singapore – and Nice and Polite from the United Kingdom. The company listed on the Swedish stock exchange in 2016 and was said to be one of the most successful IPOs on Nasdaq First North Stockholm that year.

It saw a meteoric rise in the price of its shares from €1 to €9 which briefly gave TMG a market capitalisation of €257 million and made millionaires of its Singaporean shareholders including Black Marketing’s Chris Reed and Creative Insurgence’s Aaghir Yadav.  

However TMG was beset by problems. These included a plummeting share price, accusations from its co-founder of three million shares having gone missing, the exit of all its original directors and a bitter split with Black Marketing, one of its first agencies. In June 2018, The Marketing Group decided to rebrand itself as RYVL. The goal was to make RYVL “an agile tech-driven agency for an agile tech-driven world.” 

The decision to go into administration a little over a year after the rebrand came in the wake of a fresh round of management changes and continued turmoil 

Shortly after the resignation of its CEO Adam Graham in March, Jesper Ohlenschlaeger had taken over the role of interim CEO and executive chairman. Ohlenschlaeger came into RYVL following the group’s acquisition of Blockchain Nordic, where he was director. 

His arrival was supposed to be a part of RYVL’s strategy to double down on the blockchain space.

However, shortly after his arrival, Ohlenschlaeger was in the thick of controversy after having leaked inside information via a tweet which said: “Its turned around. Q1 results will be amazing! 5 times up…wait and see.” 

This resulted in shares for RYVL being suspended from the Nasdaq First North stock exchange in Sweden, where the company was publicly listed.

Jesper Ohlenschlaeger

By May 8, Ohlenschlaeger had left the organisation. In a statement issued at the time, he said: “‘It’s not possible for me to continue as CEO for TMG PLC, due to the fact that Blockchain Nordic Ltd has today announced that they are of the opinion that the transaction with TMG has not been completed, wherefore Blockchain Nordic has decided to rescind the acquisition.”

However, a press release from RYVL on February 22 had previously announced the deal as completed.  

Ohlenschlaeger added: “We have for some time now tried to resolve the situation, but it has not been possible. Furthermore, it’s now clear after having taken over from the previous management, that TMG is in a far worse shape than informed and reported. 

“Also, for that reason I can’t continue in the role. I will give the board of directors a possibility to identify a new CEO and chairman within the next very few weeks.”

RYVL was now left in the charge of its executive director Pietro Ranieri of the London-based Ranieri Group – reckoned to be one of the holding company’s largest firms. Ranieri was then designated executive chairman and interim CEO. 

Agencies that were part of the Ranieri Group within TMG included public relations firms Ranieri PR, R Project Sarl (also known as Reflexion Publique) Slingshot Sponsorship and Wildcard Communications Group.

Pietro Ranieri

Speaking to Mumbrella about the decision to go into administration, Ranieri said: “The last few months at RYVL were very tough. Once Jesper left, I had to act on the fact that TMG PLC, the company behind RYVL, was completely insolvent. 

“So as the only director I had to look to take the company into administration. That was the only option.”

Asked about the pivot to blockchain, Ranieri said: “RYVL as a group was focussed on digital marketing, I understood the strategy towards the investment in (blockchain specialist agency) Truth as it was pitched to us, for example. 

“I did not understand the synergy of Blockchain Nordic to the rest of the existing group.”

Ranieri also clarified that apart from the agencies in his group, the remainder of agencies within RYVL had already left or become insolvent.

Asked about the impact that RYVL going into administration had made on his business, Ranieri said: “From a management point of view it was very hard to plan ahead as we were very worried about the state of TMG and what that held for us. 

“It became very clear to me that Ranieri had to leave TMG to make sure that the jobs of the individuals within the agencies were protected long term. There was absolutely no future or rescue for RYVL/TMG.”

Asked about the lessons learnt from the RYVL experience, Ranieri said: “It has taught me a lot about many different aspects of business. 

“I’ve learnt a lot about M&A, firstly due diligence as a seller and then a buyer. I’ve learnt that in order to grow a business, you cannot solely rely on acquisition as a growth strategy. 

“Underlining the acquisition strategy has to be a real business plan that can win real clients with real services that pay real money. 

“Within RYVL, some of the agencies were making money, but none of them were making money with each other, a disaster waiting to happen. 

“I have also learnt a lot about how to take control of businesses structurally. RYVL/TMG never really had control of the businesses they acquired and geographically they were too spread out. So it was impossible for the management in hindsight to get them to work together, let alone control them and the founders. 

“Unfortunately we were all sold a dream that in hindsight was just a dream. But at the time many of us sold into TMG, we didn’t know any better, and you couldn’t argue with the way the share price was going up. 

“Overall lesson, if it looks too good to be true, it’s probably because it is too good to be true.”

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