When Charles McCurdy was CEO of Canon Communications from 2005 through 2010, the company had a narrow focus on global manufacturing. It was built on a dual strategy: expanding face-to-face events, both domestically and internationally, and leveraging them into a variety of digital sources for both customers and prospects.
The strategy succeeded, as McCurdy sold Canon to UBM for $287 million in September 2010. The price tag represented a 7.8 times EBITDA multiple.
McCurdy said that he wants to deploy a similar media model for events company George Little Management (GLM), which he acquired in late September for $173 million with backing from Providence Equity Partners.
GLM, which targets the business-to-retailer market, produces 15 trade shows serving a variety of industries. These sectors include beach, board sports, home furnishings, personal care, home textiles, fashion and hospitality. The events annually showcase about 11,000 exhibitors in 1.8 million net square feet of exhibit space, and attract approximately 150,000 attendees.
McCurdy, chairman of GLM, said the company is now looking at other media properties to acquire.
“A strong trade show is a vital function that is not disintermediated the way it's been for print newspapers and magazines,” he said. “A properly executed digital and data strategy for a trade show group really extends companies' services in the marketplace rather than substitutes them.”
GLM's portfolio is already growing. Surf Expo, a semi-annual event held in Orlando, Fla., is adding another show to the mix. The new event, Launch, will debut next July in Santa Monica, Calif., and cater to board sports retailers and suppliers.
Also next year, GLM will introduce Action Sports Expo Asia in Singapore and an event in Chicago that will be tied to the company's existing Antique Jewelry & Watch shows in Las Vegas, Miami and New York.
McCurdy said he also wants to expand the digital offerings of the New York International Gift Fair, National Stationery Show and Surf Expo, which feature online catalog galleries. “We're developing a more robust audience database capability that can help support lead/sales generation for exhibitors and suppliers in the industry.”
Mike Parker, managing director at media investment bank AdMedia Partners, said McCurdy's strategy may be a “precursor” to what's ahead for the b-to-b media industry as traditional print revenue continues to decline.
“He [realized] early on that events and the interaction between digital and events is going to be a very important part of being successful in b-to-b media in the future,” Parker said. “Business publishers with a lot of exposure to print would be smart to take a hard look at what he's doing.”