On July 12, 2021, US-based language service provider (LSP) Big Language Solutions (BIG) announced the acquisition of UK-based life sciences translation specialist, Dora Wirth Languages (DWL). The terms of the transaction, which closed on July 1, 2021, were undisclosed.
BIG CEO Jeff Brink told Slator that, prior to its sale, DWL was owned by Samuel and Lynda Wirth. Samuel, who led DWL as Managing Director, will stay on in an advisory role, while “the entire DWL management team will remain in place and continue to run the business as usual,” Brink said. DWL will retain its brand and will be co-branded as a BIG Language Company.
DWL is a longserving LSP that has operated for nearly 60 years — Samuel Wirth’s mother Dora gave her name to the business she founded in the 1960s.
Brink, meanwhile, founded BIG with the backing of private equity firm MSouth Equity Partners in mid-2019. The team subsequently completed a series of deals as part of its buy-and-build strategy, acquiring LSP Protranslating in 2019, healthcare specialist ISI in September 2020, and over-the-phone interpreting (OPI) provider Language Link in April 2021.
DWL is BIG’s first acquisition of a company based outside the US. Although the pandemic had temporarily slowed BIG’s M&A activity internationally, Brink and company are now “extremely active” on this front.
“Over the next 18 months, we expect to close multiple international deals to complement our existing global footprint established by the BIG family of companies,” Brink told Slator. He hopes to reach revenues of USD 90m by the end of 2021, but said it “depends in part on the timing of subsequent acquisitions.”
Life Sciences & Europe
Life sciences boutique DWL brings substantial expertise in one of the most complex and highly-regulated markets within the language industry.
Working exclusively in the life sciences market, DWL primarily services customers in the pharmaceutical, contract research organization (CRO), and medical device segments. DWL also counts medical personnel among its employees — along with project managers, quality control personnel, and senior management — and has very little overlap with BIG’s existing customer portfolio.
According to Brink, DWL’s established reputation among life sciences customers was a key driver for the acquisition: “This deal strengthens BIG’s life science offering and expands our European footprint. We also believe BIG’s LanguageVault platform will create considerable differentiation within the life science market.”
Brink described life sciences customers as prioritizing “precision and security” and said that “while quality will always be critical in this vertical, mature buyers are also looking for technology-driven solutions that allow for increased automation while maintaining high levels of quality and data protection.”
He added, “LSP’s that want to compete in this vertical will need to provide tooling that delivers in these requirements.”
Half a Century With DWL
Former DWL MD Wirth had spent nearly 50 years working in the business his mother founded, having joined the company in 1973. He said his proudest achievement is “transforming the business into a highly respected, albeit boutique, niche LSP.”
Wirth remarked on the evolution of language technology over the decades, saying that, at one time, “the twice-a-day postal delivery dictated the tempo of the business!” DWL has seen the “full gamut” of technology, Wirth said, from “manual typewriters, IBM golf ball typewriters, telex, word processors, modems, faxes, Sinclair software, WordPerfect software, Word software, and now CAT and NMT.”
According to Wirth, DWL achieved record turnover in 2020 and it makes sense to sell the business at this juncture so the company can “move to the next level of sales.” He added that being part of a larger organization will “give our excellent and dedicated staff the career opportunities they deserve.”
Wirth also described his experience of connecting with Brink and BIG CFO Dave Perlman, who were “a delight to work with” and with whom he found “instant rapport.”
He recalled that “after numerous aborted approaches from companies that ranged from downright charlatans to established LSPs driven by MBAs and CFOs obsessed with EBITDA, we were very fortunate to be approached by BLS. They understood instinctively the great potential of DWL which, in the right company, with investment, will become a major player complementing the other companies in the BLS group.”
In Brink and Perlman, Wirth said DWL has found a home with a “formidable team” that is “well on the way to building a very successful organization that will be a major force to be reckoned with in the industry.”