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US-Headquartered Ruder Finn Acquires UAE-Based Atteline, Marking Its First Such Deal In The Middle East The opening of a brand new Ruder Finn hub in the Middle East will serve to meet the region's growing demand for PR, marketing communications, digital, and corporate reputation.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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Ruder Finn/Atteline
Left to right: Peggy Walsh, Global Chief Operating Officer, Ruder Finn; Sophie Simpson, founder and Managing Director, Atteline; Kathy Bloomgarde, CEO, Ruder Finn; and Atul Sharma, CEO, Ruder Finn India and Head - Middle East

Ruder Finn, a US-headquartered independent global communications and creative agency, has acquired Atteline, a UAE-based integrated communication agency.

In a move that marks the former's debut acquisition in the Middle East, Atteline will now serve as Ruder Finn's new hub in the region.

Founded in 2016 by Sophie Simpson, Atteline has operated across three divisions of communication -consumer, corporate, and digital- providing services to contemporary and established brands across the UAE.

Ruder Finn, on the other hand, is a 75-year-old company that has, in the past year alone, offered its communication strategies across key sectors such as healthcare, enterprise technology, reputation management, and crisis communications, among others. Ruder Finn has also launched RF Studio 53, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered creative hub, and RF TechLab, a tech incubator, both of which provide predictive analytics, and creative as well as customer-focused digital engagement.

In 2023, when Ruder Finn recorded a double-digit growth in its revenue, its CEO Kathy Bloomgarden recognized this as a time to kickstart the company's expansion plans in the Middle East. And while the global agency had a roster of public relations (PR) and communications firms to choose from, Atteline proved to be the ideal acquisition candidate owing to its alignment with Ruder Finn's vision.

Related: Negotiating A Global Acquisition For Your MENA Business? Here's What You Need To Know

Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO, Ruder Finn. Source: Ruder Finn

"When we met Atteline's leadership team, we knew that they shared our high standards of expertise, curiosity for emerging technologies and new tools, and core value of building strong partnerships with clients," Bloomgarden explains. "Our teams are aligned on our aspirations for the Middle Eastern market. Atteline, a company built on strong foundations and significant growth, is authentically embedded in the culture and community that it represents. We sensed a great cultural synergy between our two firms, and a shared goal of being the best in public relations, communications, and storytelling."

It was a similar propensity to achieve synergetic results that led Atteline's Simpson to believe that the cultural insights and expertise her firm can offer would make the acquisition a successful one. "Ruder Finn brings to the table over 75 years of experience, which is hugely beneficial not just to Atteline but also to the GCC market, which is rapidly evolving," she says. "Together we will unite global thinking with localized insight in all of our communication work, which is a powerful combination. Furthermore, our values are aligned; specifically, Ruder Finn and Atteline are passionate about creating a rewarding and positive work culture, we are client-centric but team-first, and this is essential to both organizations as people are at the heart of what we do. With this acquisition, we are going to bring an even more robust offering to the region through pioneering expertise, new technologies and tools, and the unity of global thinking with local insight. Everything we do within the GCC or outside of the region will be deeply embedded with cultural understanding."

Simpson, in addition to working closely with Bloomgarden, will also be deeply involved in working with Atul Sharma, who leads Ruder Finn's Middle East operations, which will see her continue to bring her own specific ideals to the leadership of the organization. "I want to ensure that I continue to champion the diversity and unique skills of those who contribute to the ever-changing communication landscape," Simpson declares. "Atteline's success to date has been a result of bringing some of the best and most ambitious communicators together, and we hope to continue that moving forward."

Sophie Simpson, founder and Managing Director, Atteline. Source: Atteline

From Ruder Finn's perspective, the opening of a brand new office in the Middle East, by means of this acquisition, will serve to meet the region's growing demand for PR, marketing communications, digital, and corporate reputation. "The Middle East is a rapidly developing hub for innovation and economic growth," Bloomgarden explains. "We are therefore looking forward to expanding our footprint in the UAE and GCC countries and are excited to contribute our skills and insights to firms in the region to help grow their potential. Atteline's B-Corp certification [a designation deemed by B Lab, a US-based non-profit organization, that a business is meeting high standards of performance, accountability, and transparency on factors such as employee benefits and supply chain practices, among others] will also see us meet the highest standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices."

As Bloomgarden now anticipates a successful run for her firm's Middle Eastern endeavors, she reiterates that the decision to acquire Atteline has simply been a continuation of the values with which the company was first established in 1948. "At Ruder Finn, we foster a culture based on our values of individuality, non-hierarchy, hunger, listening, experimentation, and independence that empowers our people to embody the ethos of our founder, David Finn: "Just because you don't know how to do something doesn't mean you can't,'" she shares. "In the 75 years we have been in business, and looking forward to the future of our work, our "secret sauce" comes from partnering with clients on projects we believe in, where we can have real-world impact on the people, communities, and markets we touch. This particular acquisition marks an exciting moment for not only Atteline and Ruder Finn, but also the MENA region, as we come together with shared values and a caring culture. As one united voice we will champion impactful communications with a localized approach and global capabilities."

Related: Leveling The Playing Field: Aziz Gamil, Co-Founder And CEO, Santra

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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