Matthew Freud takes stake in YouGov

PR agency chief splashes £2m on shares to add small holding in market research and polling firm to personal portfolio

Matthew Freud has extended his portfolio of business interests to market research and opinion polling after taking a stake in YouGov.

Freud, who has started buying small stakes in firms he believes are undervalued, has acquired more than 3% in the company for over £2m.

According to a stock market filing made on Friday, Freud acquired 3,139,500 shares – a 3.23% stake – in YouGov, which was co-founded by Stephan Shakespeare and Nadhim Zahawi, now a Conservative MP, in 2000.

YouGov's share price closed at 72p on 24 February, the day the shares were acquired, which would indicate that Freud paid about £2.26m.

According to YouGov's share register, Freud has one of the largest stakes in the company held by an individual, directors of YouGov aside.

Freud's investment in YouGov is in a personal capacity, rather than through his public relations and marketing company, Freud Communications.

In February YouGov filed a pre-close trading update for the six months to 31 January reporting that organic revenue growth was in "double digits" year-on-year and that it had £10m in cash.

YouGov began life as a political polling firm but it has significantly extended its business to include the successful Brand Index service, which tracks changes in public opinion about more than 1,000 brands on a daily basis.

It is the Brand Index element of the business that arguably has the most overlap with Freud's other business interests in media and marketing.

In 2009 Freud took a 3.3% stake in M&C Saatchi, the advertising agency founded by brothers Charles and Maurice Saatchi, which handles clients including Dixons, the Conservative Party and Google.

He also holds a stake in Engine Group, the marketing communications group that has clients including BSkyB, and formerly the Sun and the now defunct News of the World.

In October it emerged that Freud took home almost £2.3m in 2010 as his eponymous PR group enjoyed a 34% year-on-year increase in pre-tax profits.

Freud was paid £440,000 and received a dividend payment of more than £1.8m in 2010.

In April last year Freud regained control of Freud PR from Publicis Groupe – which owned a 50.1% stake – in a deal which is thought to have valued the business at more than £75m. It is the second time he has sold and bought back his company.

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Mark Sweney

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