Exhibition News June 2018 - Page 23

COVER FEATURE The story of Clarion “The real value of conferences is the thing that can’t be replicated, which is the group of people” generation growing up in that environment are true. It was clanging bells and numbers on walls and off to the pub at lunchtime for fags, three pints, a game of pool and come back and repeat. It was great; a lot of hard work, but very rewarding. London in the early 1990s in media was good fun; it was a good place to be. My fi rst move into events was actually in conferencing. My background prior to Clarion was in conferences and confexes, so content-led events rather than trade shows. In the mid-1990s I got a job with IIR, a real hub of conferencing. What appealed was the way that the advert was pitched; in the conference-producing role you had that combination of sales and sponsorship sales etc. with research. That really appealed to me. I ran a business for IIR setting up a large- scale confex business out of New York, so running events all over the US. I loved that, loved the cultural exchange, really enjoyed my time there. I was 30 years old. I was running events in the pharmaceutical industry in Philadelphia, right in the heart of that particular world, and then, six months later, running a large confex in south-west America for the power industry…that’s exciting for a 30-year-old. You appreciate a number of things about that American market; how large it is, how diverse it is, what a huge economy and engine it is, but also how it’s also relatively small. People move around on planes like we would on trains. I had a background in sales, I had an interest in content, and I’d run teams, so I think that left me quite well placed to maximise or grow the commercial angles of those conferences. So, where was I by then? By 2008, I’d had a 13-year career in conferences and confexes, worked in different parts of the world, had a lot of experience travelling, roles with WBR and IIR and Terrapinn. I wasn’t looking, but I was approached by Simon Kimble and the team at Clarion Events at the very beginning of 2008, just as they were selling the company to [private investment fi rm] Veronis Suhler Stevenson. Introducing confexes and conferences into the product mix at Clarion was a big part of that story. They wanted to expand the product set, so they’d moved out of the original business to consumer mix and diversifi ed into B2B. We wanted to do two things: internationalise and expand the product set into more conferences and large- scale, scalable confexes. 2001 2004 Clarion becomes a standalone business 2008 Wilcox joins Clarion, following a buyout by Veronis Suhler Stevenson 2015 Clarion is sold to investment fi rm Providence Equity Partners 2017 Clarion is acquired by Blackstone for a reported £600m Do you know how they heard about you? Yes I do, actually. Piers Bearne had helped them craft those ideas, and I had worked with Piers at Terrapinn previously. Piers felt I would be interested in leading a charge like this. I got off a plane from Dubai, and landed to a voicemail message saying, ‘there’s an opportunity at a company called Clarion, you’ll never have heard of them but I think it would really suit you’. I met Simon in the old Earl’s Court building in March 2008, and that was that. What was his pitch? Current chairman Simon Kimble joins the business, at the time a subsidiary of the private equity- backed Earls Court and Olympia Group His pitch was timely, I suppose, for me. I’d worked in a lot of different organisers, I’d been in a lot of different scenarios, I’d run teams and products and divisions, and had some success, but I hadn’t the exhibitionnews.co.uk | June 2018 23