Creative communications agency completes move to employee ownership following funding from Santander UK

  • Creative communications agency Emperor achieves financial completion on move to employee ownership
  • Santander UK provides £7m funding to support financial completion of Emperor’s employee ownership
  • Employee ownership is key component of Emperor’s growth strategy


Santander UK has supported the financial completion of creative communications agency Emperor’s move to employee ownership.

Emperor established an employee ownership trust1 in 2020 and now Santander UK has provided it with a £7m funding package to support the financial completion. Grant Thornton UK LLP advised Emperor on the establishment of the employee ownership trust and this refinancing. 

The establishment of the employee ownership trust fulfils the founders’ aspiration of attracting and retaining top talent within its industry, enabling its employees to shape the future direction of the business and share in its success, while retaining a material interest themselves. It is believed that at the time Emperor’s employee ownership trust was established, it was the first company in its sector to become owned by employees.

Emperor was established in 1996 and is headquartered in London. It also has offices in Edinburgh, Manchester, Warwick and Dubai. It has a diverse service offering with stakeholder reporting at the core but including corporate branding, employee engagement and B2B marketing. Its digital proposition includes website design and build, content creation, hosting and support.

The agency is growing steadily, forecasting revenue of £24.7m for the year to August 2022, up from £19.2m last year, and it is targeting £28m for the year to August 2023.

Kingsley James, Executive Director at Emperor said: “This transaction provides Emperor with a robust funding structure independent of the original shareholders. It is an important step towards completing our transition to employee ownership. The structure that Santander UK has put in place provides us with the foundation to sustain Emperor’s growth and develop the opportunities in our market for the benefit of the company and all our people.”

Philip Mason, Director, Growth Capital at Santander UK, said: “Emperor is diversifying and growing, and its employee ownership trust is a key component of this expansion strategy. Santander UK is well positioned to support employee-owned businesses and we are pleased to provide this funding to Emperor, enabling it to achieve the financial completion of its journey into employee ownership, and to become its day-to-day banking partner.”

Craig Cheetham, Debt Advisory Director at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “As more businesses continue to transition to employee ownership, our team’s extensive experience in raising debt finance has become essential in creating a solution that facilitates the continued growth ambitions of Emperor. Employee ownership is a great option for vendors to transition control without the disruption to the former sales process, as well as giving key staff a brilliant incentive to continue to deliver for the business.” 

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Notes to editors

1)    Employee Ownership Trusts were introduced by the government in September 2014. The aim is to facilitate wider employee ownership via an indirect holding to encourage employee engagement and participation in the upside of future success.