Clarion Events closes in on NEC's expo arm

Clarion Events is on the verge of completing the first of two major acquisitions following the organiser's £45m management buyout from Earls Court & Olympia (ECO) Group (Event, November/December 2004).

The former ECO in-house organiser has bought into a joint venture partnership to manage the NEC's in-house organising arm, Centre Exhibitions, for an undisclosed sum. The Midlands venue's staff have been informed, and Clarion and the NEC are in the final throws of legally cementing the deal.

Centre Exhibitions' managed show contracts will remain with their appointed teams while Clarion focuses on launching events at the venue and on the in-house arm's day-to-day operations.

Clarion is believed to have beaten off competition from other interested parties to secure the contract.

A spokesman for the organiser said Clarion had one further major acquisition in the pipeline, to be announced later in the year.

NEC chief executive Andrew Morris was unable to confirm details of the joint venture partnership with his former organising outfit, but did stress that a deal was in a "very advanced stage" and that "the NEC always endeavours to keep staff fully updated".

Meanwhile, the NEC has committed to spend £40m over the next three years to upgrade facilities at the venue. Additional conference facilities, modernisation of the piazza, new catering facilities, refurbished toilets and improved floor surfaces and ceilings will form the first phase during the summer.

Later phases will address people movement around the site and might include an extension to the Skywalk travelators.

- The NEC Group and Marketing Birmingham have opened a London office together to give the city a bigger presence in the capital.

Birmingham W1 will be used as a lobbying base, a place to bid for major events and a media briefing centre.

The NEC's Morris said: "It will give us the platform to communicate directly with London-based decision-makers, the government and the media."

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