M&A The Dealmaker Steve Monnington of Mayfield Media Strategies runs the rule over the latest global exhibition deals D espite the many high profile successes we read about, private equity ownership doesn’t always end in success for all concerned and this month we have a good example of what can go wrong when management and their private equity owners are not aligned, especially over growth expectations. Upper Street Events was acquired by Livingbridge in December 2014 when it backed a management buyout from the Morris family, owners of the Business Design Centre. As part of the transaction, Phil Soar joined the board and all looked good for the future. However, Phil departed four months later, which with hindsight wasn’t a good sign, and the three key managers – Paul Byrom, Dan Holmes and Isobel Dennis – all left in April and May 2017. Paul Byrom was replaced by Immediate Media’s Julie Harris. In a wonderful piece of symmetry, Livingbridge have sold Upper Street to Immediate Media but instead of Harris moving back to her old company with the business, Paul Byrom has re-joined as head of live events, suggesting that the new owners saw his 14 years’ experience of building Upper Street as a positive. According to industry sources, Livingbridge made a substantial loss on its investment. Immediate Media seems to be a good home for the business given 10 — March its strength in consumer media, including several of the sectors where Upper Street runs shows. Mercator Media, publishers and exhibition organisers in the marine, commercial fishing and ports sectors has acquired Marine & Coastal Civil Engineering Expo from Prsym and will co-locate it with its own Seawork exhibition, which was essentially the main competition for Prsym. In South Africa, Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery has acquired FM Expo from TE Trade Events. The Facilities Management exhibition will be co-located with Securex and A-OSH Expo (occupational health & safety). Following its acquisition of UBM, Informa has started divesting some of its non- exhibition assets. The Life Sciences Media Brands Portfolio was part of the UBM business and has been sold to MJH Associates, a leading US-based medical communications company, for just over $100m. The brands cover three core vertical markets – Healthcare, Pharma and Animal Health – and were included within the Other Marketing Services division, which was declining organically with margins of 12 per cent versus the Group average of 31.5 per cent. There is an increasing number of entrepreneurs selling their businesses, and at the end of 2018 I had a chat with Dan Taylor at Events Podcast about the key points to bear in mind in a sale process. You can find it at theeventspodcast.com. You can also find Steve discussing the process of selling a business at 2pm on 26 February (Day One) of International Confex on the EN Pavilion. The top global merger and acquisition deals in 2019 so far... Informa sells Life Sciences Media Brands Portfolio to US-based MJH Associates in a deal worth just over $100m. The divestiture forms part of Informa’s Progressive Portfolio Management (PPM) programme. Mercator Media Limited enters an agreement to purchase the Marine & Coastal Civil Engineering Expo (M&CCE Expo) from Prysm Group. Mercator Media runs 22-year-old event Seawork, which M&CCE Expo will now run alongside. Reed Exhibitions, a division of RELX Group, enters into a definitive agreement to acquire Mack Brooks Exhibitions, bidding against various private equity firms. Mack Brooks chairman Stephen Brooks will reportedly be leaving the business. PSAV enters into a purchase agreement to acquire event services company Encore Event Technologies from The Freeman Company. This transaction reinforces PSAV’s mission of ‘Connecting and Inspiring People’ by expanding the breadth of its capabilities throughout North America and Asia Pacific. Immediate Media acquires Upper Street, which CEO Tom Bureau calls ‘a further step in Immediate’s multiplatform transformation’.