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Glover Park Sells Majority Stake in Firm

The Glover Park Group, a Democratic media, lobbying and consulting firm that opened its doors in 2001, inked a deal Monday to sell a majority stake of its company to a Chicago-based private equity firm.

Both sides said the investment by the Svoboda Collins Fund would help Glover Park to expand into other businesses and possibly set up shop throughout the United States as well as in Europe and Asia.

Neither Glover Park nor Svoboda would disclose the financial terms of the deal, but Glover Park partner Joe Lockhart, a one-time spokesman for former President Bill Clinton, said his firm is on track to bring in $30 million in revenues by the end of this year.

The Svoboda-Glover deal is similar to one reached in 2003 between Lake Capital Group, another Chicago firm, and the lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide.

John Svoboda called the deal a partnership, though his fund will own slightly more than 50 percent of the business.

“Our capital and ability to help them with strategic planning to take what’s a very successful business will hopefully make it even more successful,” he said.

Glover Park, whose other partners include Carter Eskew, an aide to former Vice President Al Gore, began during one of the more dismal environments for Democratic consultants — in the wake of President Bush’s first election.

“We have soldiered on,” Lockhart said. “We’ve grown the company from what was about five of us to about 65 people now.” The shop also has an office in New York, headed by Howard Wolfson, as well as a one-person outpost in Los Angeles.

Within its first 18 months, Glover Park had added a research unit to conduct polls and focus groups. In January 2005, the firm acquired several lobbyists from the all-Democratic Harbour Group, led by veteran Democratic aide and lobbyist Joel Johnson.

Lockhart said pure government relations work accounts for about 15 percent of the firm’s overall business. Glover Park’s clients include Visa, Airbus, Verizon and the World Wildlife Federation, among others.

Lockhart said he and his partners at Glover Park turned down other offers but liked the Svoboda deal because of “the ability for us to continue to run the business.”

Unlike deals many lobbying businesses have inked with large advertising and public relations conglomerates, Lockhart said Svoboda is not in the advocacy business and is “investing in this management team,” not trying to change it.

Chip Smith, Glover Park’s chief operating officer, said the deal is most similar to the Dutko-Lake Capital arrangement.

“When it comes to day-to-day operations, nothing changes operationally, nothing changes in terms of how we service our clients,” Smith said. “Our reporting structure remains the same.”

The firm’s board likely will increase to as many as nine people, including representatives from Svoboda Collins, he said.

Smith added that the deal will give Glover Park enhanced access to capital and additional flexibility to make future acquisitions or to move into new business areas. He said Glover Park is considering an expansion of business at the state level as well as increasing its international efforts.

While the lobbying shop is all-Democratic at a time when Democrats are poised for a good Election Day, Lockhart said he is not ruling out bringing on Republicans at some point.

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