10 years of news - Part one: Reports from the front line

Mike Fletcher looks back at the faces and places that made the headlines in Event's early years.

1997: January Marketing Event launches into the events arena with the news that exhibitions grabbed a larger share of marketing budgets than direct mail campaigns during 1995. The research, carried out by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers among its members, also reveals that spend on exhibition stands is up 10% to £750m, while total marketing spend on exhibitions is £1.02bn.

The £592.5m merger of Blenheim Group and United News and Media's publishing arm, Miller Freeman, forms one company organising more than 250 events in Europe, the US and Asia.

The £150m Excel venue planned for London's Docklands reports that it is about to secure financial backing, while World Travel Market, which is now in its 17th year, attracts 4,000 exhibitors and 64,500 participants from 157 countries to Earls Court.

Quote of the month: "United's purchase of Blenheim will ensure that exhibitions, in terms of competition with other forms of media, will get a higher profile"

Hugh Scrimgeour, chairman and managing director, P&O Earls Court Olympia


Industry sources suggest that the UK's exhibition venues will fail to meet the increasing demand for exhibition space, which will open the way for more unusual venues to diversify their offer. The report further predicts that exhibition spend will rise from £1.38bn in 1996 to £1.84bn by 2000.

Exhibitors will spend £1.11bn, while the remaining £726m will come from the predicted visitors.

Granada becomes the first ITV company to venture into consumer exhibitions with This Morning, Countdown to Christmas Live, planned for 21-23 November at Manchester's G-Mex.

Emap launches fashion trade shows Pure and 40 degrees at Olympia's Grand Hall and Olympia 2 from 16-18 February, and Confex stages its 15th annual show, organised by Blenheim Exhibitions and Conferences. Attendance has soared by 34% over the past two years and this year 10,000 visitors meet with 1,200 exhibitors.

Quote of the month: "The live aspects of an exhibition offer unique opportunities to bring a brand to life"

Steve Lewis, commercial development manager, Granada


Leading event agencies such as HP:ICM, Park Avenue and Spectrum voice frustrations over pitching for work. Irritations include being undercut, having their ideas plagiarised and the way they are treated by clients.

The NEC begins a £60m scheme to create four new halls. The venue hopes the extension will help attract peripatetic European shows such as ITMA, the textile machinery show currently held in Germany. Reed Exhibitions acquires the European Incentive and Business Travel and Meetings exhibition (EIBTM).

Quote of the month: "Park Avenue only pitches for big business, unless we use a sprat to catch a mackerel for work we really believe in"

Nigel Greening, creative director, Park Avenue


United News and Media (UNM) and P&O, owner of Earls Court and Olympia Group, both post financial results. UNM reports a 12% increase in pre-tax profits to £290.2m for the year ended December 1996 and declares the cost of integrating Blenheim into Miller Freeman as £18m. P&O states that turnover at Earls Court and Olympia, plus the group's other service businesses, rose from £107.8m in 1995 to £138.4m this year.

Quote of the month: "It is important for customers to meet us face to face. So much of our business is done on the phone"

David Wilson, promotions manager, British Gas


Industry figureheads reveal what they would like to see from the new Labour Government as Tony Blair enters Number 10. Avenue Exhibitions managing director Ian Allchild calls for money to be invested in the British Tourist Authority to create a division focused on the British Trade Exhibition, while RT Display's Richard Armitage hopes the business of exhibitions will be taken more seriously. Ralph Ardill, marketing director at agency Imagination, calls for a Ministry of Ideas, and Penny Hanson, M&IT Show director, asks how the Government will support millennium events.

Quote of the month: "New ideas and the intellect will play a bigger part in future economic success, so just as there is a Ministry for Agriculture, so should there be one for ideas"

Ralph Ardill, marketing director, Imagination


BBC Haymarket Exhibitions faces up to a rival football exhibition that will launch next year at the Wembley Exhibition Centre. Football 98, which is organised by Football Events, will take place from 29-31 May, a month before Haymarket's Match of the Day Live, which debuted at the NEC in April. According to sales manager Joel Nathan, Match of the Day Live had 30,000 paying visitors and 108 exhibitors.

Quote of the month: "The DTI has reacted quickly to my request for a meeting, and the reaction to our call for closer co-operation is encouraging"

Brian Rusbridge, director, Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO)


The Facts, which is published annually by the Exhibition Venues Association, reveals an 18% increase in visitors to UK shows during 1996. The total number of exhibitions in venues with 2,000 sqm or more was 710, and these shows managed to attract 10 million visitors. A total of 343 organising companies were responsible for the 710 shows, which were broken down into 403 trade exhibitions, 255 public shows and 52 that were a mix of trade and consumer.

The news that emerged in June revealing Emap Media and Exhibitions Group is a joint shareholder in a subsidiary company formed by the NEC to implement a £65m expansion of the Midlands venue causes outrage among organisers, who accuse the NEC of showing bias towards Emap shows.

Quote of the month: "We have no influence on the way that the NEC runs existing or new halls.

The industry ought to be grateful to Emap for backing the expansion and increasing exhibition capacity in the UK"

David Metcalfe, director, Emap Business Communications


Construction of the Greenwich Dome begins as Excel denies that it is facing the axe as a result of delays that have occurred in the building work. The new exhibition centre planned for Docklands was originally scheduled to open at the end of 1998, with 80 exhibitions signed up as options.

Quote of the month: "We are some six to nine months behind where we would like to be, and that is bound to raise some question marks"

Keith Greetham, head of marketing, London International Exhibition Centre, the consortium set up to operate the venue


Leeds Metropolitan University is seeking a number of placement opportunities for its debut year of events management degree students.

Meanwhile, London First, a consortium of 300 private businesses, declares the need for a dedicated convention venue in south London, following the completion of its feasibility study.

Quote of the month: "We believe the first events management degree of its kind will open doors for careers in this vibrant and rapidly expanding industry"

Julia Tum, course leader, Leeds Metropolitan University


Earls Court Olympia denies that it is up for sale, while the DTI publishes its report, The Future of the British Exhibitions Industry, and predicts that the expansion of the NEC and the development of Excel will enhance the industry.

Stephen Brooks of Mack Brooks Exhibitions succeeds Kevin Murphy of Emap Business Communications as AEO chairman. Vice-chairman is Peter Osborne from BBC Haymarket Exhibitions and new members elected to the AEO Council include Tim Etchells, David Metcalfe and Miller Freeman's Richard Pegler.

Quote of the month: "The company is not for sale. However, as a plc, the organisation has a duty to its shareholders and one can never say never"

Hugh Scrimgeour, group chairman and managing director, Earls Court Olympia


The £36m Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, tagged the Armadillo because of its unique architecture designed by Sir Norman Foster, opens.

The venue comprises 22,000 sqm.

P&O Events hails the London Motor Show, staged at Earls Court, a success after 380,702 visitors attend and the Exhibition Venues Association formally launches as a trade body.

Agency HP:ICM loses its chairman Lois Jacobs to Caribiner as its new chief executive. Caribiner joins the Cordiant Communications Group and Jacobs' successor at HP:ICM is named as Nigel Lloyd-Jones.

Quote of the month: "It's important that we work together as associations with a unified voice, because government bodies find it easier to talk to larger groups" Stephen Brooks, chairman, AEO

1998: As the year gets underway, the AEO announces that it has recruited a new director. Trevor Foley was previously head of the Audit Bureau of Circulations' business-to-business operations. He succeeds Brian Rusbridge CBE, who held the AEO directorship for six years.

Over in Docklands, Excel chief executive Iain Shearer confirms Malaysian developer Country Heights is the mystery main financial backer behind the planned exhibition centre. London International Exhibition Centre, a consortium set up to operate the venue, has taken six years to secure sufficient backing and now, with the financial players in place, the building of London's new exhibition halls can finally get underway.

In February there is movement of personnel as the UK managing director of Blenheim/Miller Freeman, David Pegler, quits the UK's largest exhibition organiser after more than seven years to become European managing director of Imark Communications. Meanwhile, Lawrie Lewis, founder of Blenheim Exhibitions, is believed to be on the verge of a comeback to the industry as chief executive of the ITE Group. The £70m group, owned by Egyptian-born brothers Roger and Roddy Shashoua, finally announces its appointment of Lewis with the aim of furthering the exhibition company's plans to become listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Lewis, who was at Blenheim when it floated in 1986, owns 29% of quoted company Cementone. The Shashoua brothers are believed to be planning to reverse their business into Cementone, which will then change its name to ITE Group and join the media and exhibitions sector. This deal could leave Lewis with 10% ownership of the new business.

Neville Buch, another former Blenheim boss, is also rumoured to be making a return to exhibitions through listed agency BBB Design. Buch, who led Blenheim for a decade through its £6m floatation to its near £600m sale to United News and Media, will turn BBB from a design and marketing agency into an exhibitions and publishing company. Two other ex-Blenheim executives, Douglas Emslie and Stephen Monnington, currently work at BBB as finance director and new business and acquisitions director respectively. Buch aims to grow the business globally to a value of £150m and rename it Tarsus.

In other listed company news, the Mice Group announces a £1.25m acquisition of the European divisions of stand-build agency Marler Haley. Operations in Germany, Holland and Belgium now come under Mice Group's control.

The British Exhibition Contractors Association (BECA) seeks to cement formal alliances with the AEO and the Exhibition Venues Association (EVA) in a bid to create industry-wide Health and Safety guidelines. Speaking after BECA's April AGM, president Richard Armitage says he wants to get BECA, the AEO and EVA sitting around a table on a regular basis to talk about industry issues. BECA director Joan Turner confirms that a meeting with the AEO has been scheduled. "This is the only way forward," she says.

Mid-way through the year, the ABC introduces its standard exhibition audit. "The existing exhibition profile audit makes it mandatory to include some geodemographic analysis but the industry told us it wanted another option," says ABC head of sales and marketing Austen Hawkins. "This new audit will just prove attendance figures, which will be both cheaper and, we hope, more popular with organisers."

Meanwhile, Miller Freeman co-locates its Incentive International show with Confex to form International Confex. Avenue Exhibitions' Incentive World show responds to this news by changing its dates from the same week in March to 16-18 February to "ensure that the industry is not compromised".


The Government's Action 2000 department warns that the events industry could be hit badly by the millennium bug. Some 69% of UK hotels, restaurants and catering companies, plus 44% of firms classified under sport, culture and recreation, are unprepared for the new millennium's feared technology meltdown.

According to the latest Facts, some 10.75m visitors are estimated to have attended 841 shows in venues of 2,000 sqm or more during 1997. London hosted one-third of the 841 events in 10 venues, while the West Midlands hosted a quarter of the number in five venues. Net hall space sold totalled 3.3 million sqm.

Banter Communications, the consumer exhibitions company set up in May by another ex-Blenheim boss Brian Wiseman, is set to float on the London Stock Exchange. The firm issues an offer for subscription of 1.2m shares in a bid to raise £540,000 to plough into new launches in the consumer exhibitions arena. Wiseman, who was deputy chairman at Blenheim until early 1996, launched the Erotica exhibition at London's Olympia in November 1997.

Banter Communications begins trading in August on OFEX, the trading facility for unlisted companies, after it raised £370,000 through its offer. The firm's first buy is an 80% stake of the Well-Informed Woman show, due to launch at the Business Design Centre in Islington in November.

Elsewhere, Montgomery Exhibitions and Emap Business Communications announce a joint venture company to create a 'Supershow' for the construction industry.

Interbuild will run every two years in the month of May of even years.

Imark Communications makes it first foray into UK exhibitions in October with the acquisition of the Interactive Group, organiser of the Softworld series of events. According to David Pegler, Imark managing director Europe, the US company has aggressive plans to expand the number of industry sectors served by the Softworld products.

The National Magazine Company brings in Lorraine Adams to head up its new show team for the Cosmopolitan Show. Matthew Briggs joins Adams as deputy show director. The team takes over from Stephanie Grice, who left to set up an events arm for rival publisher Gruner & Jahr. And attendance at the British International Motor Show rose by 14% with 709,422 people visiting 3,000 exhibitors at the NEC.

1999: Miller Freeman starts the year by cancelling its Incentive International show just two months out from its March dateline, due to lack of exhibitor support. According to Avenue Exhibitions, its rival Incentive World show is sold out and will not be expanding to accommodate exhibitors from the defunct Miller Freeman event.

In February, Austen Hawkins is appointed as AEO deputy director and the association carries out a Web Trends survey among 24 organisers. The results show more exhibition organisers than ever before own a website but not enough are aware of the revenue-generating potential. AEO director Trevor Foley declares that the body is close to having its own website and that "a lot of members have requested links into it".

Andrew Manby, chairman of Joe Manby, takes over as BECA president from RT Display chairman Richard Armitage. "It's good to report that our association and industry are strong and can face the future with confidence. BECA is united and in its 86th year is as active and vigorous as ever," says Armitage.

Lawrie Lewis is promoted to ITE chairman following the retirement of Roger Shashoua. Mark Shashoua, former group operations executive, takes over as chief executive.

The events industry declares itself to be confident that it can deal with the introduction of the Euro, following the Prime Minister's call for companies to begin preparations for a single European currency and the abolition of sterling by 2004.

BECA steps up its Euro awareness campaign, while Trevor Foley states: "I'd be amazed if AEO members are not preparing themselves, but it's an issue we are yet to raise formally."

Excel raises the final £183.5m that it needs to complete the first phase of its construction programme. The funding is raised through a bond issue via Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of Barclays. "All the money - £210m - now needed for phase one is in the bank and being spent," says Excel commercial director Keith Greetham.

The venue is currently under construction on an 85-acre site that is owned by English Partnerships and located on the northern side of the Royal Victoria Dock. Reed Exhibition Companies and Miller Freeman Worldwide each have an 11% equity interest and are among seven organisers to have backed the high-profile project.


The DTI replaces its pamphlet promoting UK exhibitions overseas, entitled Trade Fairs from Britain, with a multilingual website, www.exhibitions.co.uk.

Excel declares that its first tenancy is the debut London Holiday & Travel Show run by John Fish Exhibitions and planned for March 2001. The show currently runs annually at Manchester's G-Mex and Glasgow's SECC.

A consortium headed by the owners of Islington's Business Design Centre (BDC) buys Earls Court Olympia.

Andrew Morris, one of five brothers who own the BDC, heads the winning bid, backed by lead investor Candover Investment and Credit Suisse First Boston. The deal is thought to be worth somewhere in the region of £180m.

The business will operate under the name Earls Court & Olympia (EC&O) Group and a management reshuffle will see Morris taking on the role of chief executive across both the BDC and EC&O, while BDC head of events Nigel Nathan will become commercial director for both venues.

EC&O affiliates P&O Exhibition Services and P&O Events set about changing their names as a result of the sale of the venues to the Morris family.

Opex Exhibition Services is the new identity of P&O Exhibition Services and Clarion Events, headed by Jonathan Goold, is the rebranded P&O Events.

The Opex management team, led by Mike Wells and David Walley, begin putting together a management buy-out plan for the business.

BBC Haymarket Exhibitions appoints Simon Kimble as managing director.

Kimble, who was formerly the deputy managing director at Single Market Events, will take responsibility for the joint venture between the BBC and Haymarket and report to Haymarket chairman Peter Osborne.

Meanwhile, Haymarket Exhibitions deputy managing director Chris Hughes quits to set up his own consultancy, called Brand Events.

Miller Freeman hands responsibility for its International Confex exhibition to Andy Lane, following the departure of event director Mina Booth. Booth was responsible for the failed Incentive International Show and joins Advanstar Communications as group marketing director for its eight-strong Call Centre and Voice portfolio of shows.

2000: January The £7.8m merger of Miller Freeman parent United News & Media and Carlton occurs. Many of the group's exhibitions will be sold off as non-core to the business. Emap buys Miller Freeman's Premier Womenswear.

Quote of the month: "Miller Freeman UK has been undergoing a refinement of its business for the past seven months and this is an implementation of it" Nigel Maine, head of corporate communications, Miller Freeman Worldwide


The AEO sells its shareholding in Excel, while US live event firm Jack Morton Company buys UK production agency Creation Communications.

Quote of the month: "It is not appropriate for the AEO to hold shares in any venue in order for us to remain an objective body" Austen Hawkins, deputy director, AEO


Reed Elsevier and United News & Media both announce online investment.

Reed declares a £750m programme that will be implemented over a three-year period, while United earmarks £370m over two years along with the creation of a new media division, which will include Miller Freeman's consolidated exhibition portfolio.

Excel announces that 120 events are planned for its first year, causing a flurry of shows to defect from other London venues. Excel's debut show, Automotex, which is run by Montgomery Exhibitions, is due to open in November following the venue's completion.

Quote of the month: "Excel was designed to address all the issues that organisers had with previous venues"

Carolyn Hurley, customer services director, Excel


Caribiner International sells its worldwide communications division to US live event giant Jack Morton Company in a deal worth £58m. The addition of Caribiner UK extends Jack Morton's European presence through a portfolio that includes UK production agency Creation Communications, and 51% of German agency De Otter & de Vries Live Communications.

Miller Freeman sells its portfolio of food and drink shows to William Reed. The package includes Food and Drink Expo, The Convenience Retailing Show and Forecourt International.

Quote of the month: "Our strategy is to provide the complete communication hub in food and drink"

Charles Reed, group managing director, William Reed


London International Boat Shows' deal with Excel will see the London Boat Show move from Earl's Court to Docklands.

Quote of the month: "Visitors to Excel will be able to view the boats actually on the water"

Peter Steinberger, chairman, National Boat Shows.


ITE loses its second chief executive in a year as Steve Monnington quits amid speculation that it is overspending.

The fate of EC&O's exhibition services arm is sealed. Melville owner Telecast Communications snaps up the Opex Birmingham operation to form an event services giant. Opex's London division is bought by a consortium of existing management and Canberra Cleaning owner Guy Morgan. Lois Jacobs becomes executive vice-president of Europe and Asia Pacific for Caribiner International.

Quote of the month: "They seem determined to drive the share price through acquisitions, but investors are beginning to ask where the money is coming from" ITE insider


Emap relocates its fashion events again. Pure, Premier Womenswear, 40 degrees and Level 2 will be at Excel in February. EVA lobbies the Government for more cash for firms wishing to exhibit at UK shows.

Quote of the month: "It would be good for the Government to see the UK not just as the e-commerce hub but as the meetings hub as well" Stephen Brooks, chairman, AEO.


The break-up of United News & Media continues as it takes the IT electronics and games interests of Miller Freeman and launches them as CMP Europe.

The move follows the sale of the US arm of Miller Freeman to Dutch publisher VNU for £433m and Miller Freeman Europe to Reed Elsevier for £240m.

BECA turns down the AEO's request for financial help towards a generic industry promotional campaign for the second year running. BECA director Joan Turner says her decision stems from the AEO's refusal to accept input on the content of the campaign no matter how much money is contributed.

Clarion Events managing director Jonathan Goold quits as EC&O's in-house organiser. He is to be replaced by EC&O chief executive Andrew Morris.

Quote of the month: "CMP envisages rapid expansion of its products into continental Europe. We now have a company matched to the needs of the hi-tech industry" Clive Ellings, executive director, CMP October Caribiner International relaunches as Jack Morton in the UK. This forms part of the global integration of the US live events giant. And Exhibition insurance firm Insurex Expo-Sure receives more than 30 claims for cancellations during the fuel crisis in September.

Quote of the month: "Organisers need to check with contractors that they have enough fuel for deliveries" Paul James, claims director, Insurex.


Car manufacturers hail The British International Motor Show as being one of the best ever, with more than 750,000 people at the Birmingham event.

Stephanie Grice joins IPC Media as its first director of exhibitions and events. The move follows her decision to quit the National Magazine Company after it bought her former employer Gruner & Jahr.

Next month: 2001 and beyond (plus more photos from the Event archive ...).

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