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Grass Roots Group acquired by US giant for £90 million

Blackhawk Network reaches deal to purchase shares from WPP plc and current and past management

Pictured: Grass Roots CEO Richard Bandell

Grass Roots Group has been bought by California-based Blackhawk Network.

The performance improvement and customer engagement company, which owns Grass Roots Meetings and Events, will operate as a subsidiary of Blackhawk after a US$118 million (£90m) agreement to purchase the shareholding of WPP plc and current and former management.

Blackhawk is a leading prepaid and payments company, which supports the programme management and distribution of gift cards, prepaid telecoms products and financial service products in retail, digital and incentive channels. The company says the deal will allow Blackhawk to tap into Grass Roots’ existing expertise of meeting and events management and add an important element to its portfolio, while Grass Roots will benefit from growth opportunities and a greater global reach.

"We are really excited about the opportunities this partnership brings to Grass Roots,” said Richard Bandell, CEO of Grass Roots. “Joining Blackhawk opens up significant growth opportunities for Grass Roots, transforming us into a leading global business and allowing us to inspire more people worldwide. Together, the two companies will have increased scale and scope, and we will bring those benefits to our clients and partners.”

Last month, Grass Roots Group revealed pre-tax profit slid by 2.1 per cent to £7.8 million for the year-ended 31 December 2015.  Revenue, however, increased by £24m, which was offset by an increase in the cost of sales (£219m) and administrative costs (£55m)

Matthew Howe and Jonathan Kenny, co-managing directors of Blackhawk’s UK-based Europe operations, will lead the European operations of Grass Roots. Stewart Rigby, managing director, Blackhawk Asia Pacific, will lead the Asia-Pacific operations of Grass Roots.

“The acquisition of Grass Roots complements the existing client portfolio of Blackhawk's incentives business, and enhances solutions for customers requiring global reward and incentive platforms and products,” said Bill Tauscher, executive chairman of Blackhawk. “We will also offer new products and capabilities to Grass Roots’ clients.”

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