Former Reprise CEO Tim Ringel launches a new holding company

There’s another new-age holding company on the block, and this one is putting people before shareholders.

Meet The People launched on Wednesday as a next-generation agency holding company focused on transparency, talent and integration.

Led by global CEO Tim Ringel, formerly global CEO of IPG performance agency Reprise, the group currently includes branding and design agency VSA Partners, experiential marketing agency Public Label and Match Retail, which focuses on merchandising and in-store branding. The latter two agencies were previously one agency called Match Marketing Group, which split late last year to clarify their offerings.

Meet The People, which currently employs 350 staffers, is backed by $150 million in funding from private equity firm Innovatus Capital Partners. The company, which will hit $50 to $60 million in revenue this year, plans to double revenue annually and employ 3,000 people over the next two years. 

Ringel will lead the agency alongside Tom Armbruster as global COO and Natalie Alberta Dusey as global chief of staff and corporate secretary. Agencies within the group will maintain their independence, but founders will gain an equity stake in Meet The People so they are financially incentivized to work together. 

“Even though we have individual agencies, we don’t want the founders to focus only on their P&L,” Ringel said. “We can create synergies by building bridges between the agencies with a unitary incentive structure, where creating value for your agency creates value at the top.”

Ringel believes that Meet The People currently has the “bookends” of an end-to-end offering, with creative strategy at the top and in-store and experiential activation at the bottom. As the group seeks out new acquisitions, it will look to fill in gaps in the middle, including performance marketing, content production and analytics. 

More importantly, Meet The People, which Ringel says has about 100 companies in its M&A pipeline, is looking for like-minded entrepreneurs and cultural fits over capabilities. The group plans to add up to 15 new agencies within the next two years.

“We’re building this from entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs,” Ringel said. “It’s for people who have the vision that the market needs a people-centric organization.”

In that vein, Meet The People promises to put people before profits as a private company. It will operate on a distributed, hybrid model, maintaining existing offices in Chicago, Toronto and Boulder, Colorado, and standing up “micro-offices” in areas where smaller groups of talent live. These will be places where people can interact and brainstorm, and agencies can share office space and cultural initiatives.

“Work has changed for people,” Ringel said. “People want to work from everywhere, be hired anywhere and move depending on their needs. We're going to enable them to do that.”

One of Meet The People’s core principles is transparency. That applies to clients, but also within teams. For instance, “when we develop a creative idea or strategy for a brand, the people who are going to activate media, social or content will be in the room, so you don't have that drop-off 15 layers down,” Ringel explained.

However, Ringel is realistic in that, despite monetary incentives, getting entrepreneurial-minded agency founders to work together is a challenge. He plans to get leadership together monthly to discuss ideas, trends and products available across the group.

“You can’t force these things, but once you meet someone and build a relationship, you create trust,” he said. “You can rely on that person and get something more fruitful than a transaction.”

As an independent, Meet The People will be able to invest in long-term thinking and strategy because it’s not beholden to shareholders, a reliance that forces holding companies to think short-term. Ringel also explained that he decided to take money from a PE firm rather than venture capital because the former tends to have more “realistic yield expectations from what a services business can deliver,” he said.

“The big holding companies are quarterly driven,” Ringel said. “We need to perform, but it’s not our primary target to be the largest or fastest-growing. When we make decisions as a group we think about impact on people and talent first.”


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