Mayfield Media Strategies’ managing director Steve Monnington on the latest M&A activity, covering the period between issue 4 and issue 5 of EW
Non-core disposals from the larger organisers seem to be becoming more prevalent. Over the last few months I reported that Centaur Media sold its UK B2C Home Interest division to Future and Ascential has sold its ‘heritage brands’ to Metropolis. Since the last column, Informa announced its intention to sell Euroforum, the German/Swiss domestic conference business, to German media group, Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt.
Euroforum runs a large portfolio of small conferences across a large number of sectors and doesn’t fit with Informa’s vertical communities strategy. UBM also got in on the act selling Technology for Marketing (TFM), eCommerce Expo, Top 50 and the Care Show To CloserStill Media. Although this is only the second acquisition by CloserStill since Inflexion invested in March 2015, it’s a strategic deal with a lot of upside potential.
The Care Show fits with its existing portfolio of healthcare events which includes Health+Care. For the three technology events, CloserStill have created a joint venture with Graeme Howe and Justin Opie who originally launched e-Commerce Expo in 2006 and sold it to UBM in 2010. All the UBM staff involved directly in the running of the shows have joined the CloserStill team. Historically, the larger organisers have been reluctant to sell their shows and, once they are in decline, are reluctant Buyer Business to increase investment thereby hastening their demise but the UBM disposal is part of their Events First strategy which has placed the focus firmly on the larger growing shows.
Often the sale to a smaller organiser breathes new life in to the show, as they bring new ideas and energy and can’t afford to fail. Media 10 transformed Ideal Home show after buying it from DMG in 2009. Since then they have launched several other editions including a launch in China. They have also done a great job with 100% Design since they acquired it from Reed. UBM sold Ecobuild to the management team and it will be interesting to see if they can rebuild what was a rapidly declining event now they are an independent team.
A new area of business we at Mayfield Towers are looking at is music festivals. The M&A characteristics are reminiscent of exhibitions 10 years ago – fragmented private ownership, a few big acquisitive players such as Live Nation and AEG Live and now the first PE buy and build by Providence, who sold Clarion to Blackstone. Surprisingly, live music events turn out to be a lot more fun than machinery exhibitions (who knew?) but as Hunter S. Thompson once remarked: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”