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Outdoor Retailer's parent company sold to Onex

Published May 10, 2013 7:35 am

Conventions • Visit Salt Lake boss sees little change in big trade shows with takeover.
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Nielsen Expositions, which twice a year puts on Outdoor Retailer trade shows in Salt Lake City, has been sold to Onex Corp. for $950 million.

Onex, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is a private equity firm whose businesses have assets of $44 billion, generate annual revenues of $37 billion and employ 243,000 people worldwide.

The ownership change does not concern Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, which oversees the meeting business at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.

"For us, it is business as usual," he said, referring to preparations for Outdoor Retailer's Summer Market trade show July 31-Aug. 3. The next Winter Market is scheduled for Jan. 22-25, 2014.

Together, those two shows represent Salt Lake City's largest convention. The Governor's Office of Economic Development said 45,000 people attended the trade shows last year, contributing $40 million to Utah's economy.

In January, Nielsen Expositions signed a contract to keep those trade shows in Salt Lake City through 2016. But Nielsen has been concerned that its constantly expanding shows have outgrown metropolitan Salt Lake's hotel capacity. It is a big backer of developing a large headquarters hotel next to the Salt Palace.

A bill that would have provided state financial support for a megahotel died during the last legislative session.

Nielsen Expositions was a division of Nielsen Holdings N.V., an "information and measurement company" that has a presence in 100 countries worldwide. The parent company decided to divest the expositions division to focus on its "watch-and-buy segments, providing our clients with a comprehensive understanding of consumers," chief financial officer Brian West said in a release.

"Our Expositions leadership team has built a world-class business with successful and respected brands," he added, referring to the 65 tradeshows and conferences Nielsen Expositions runs each year involving general merchandise, sports, jewelry, photography, hospitality and retail design.

Nielsen Expositions generated revenues of $183 million in 2012 with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $97 million. The exposition branch has 240 employees, the release said.

Onex plans to "build on [Nielsen's] market leadership position through continued expansion of its existing shows," said managing director Kosty Gilis, praising the "high renewal rates and longstanding exhibitor relations" that Nielsen Expositions has throughout its trade shows.

David Loechner, Nielsen Expositions' president, called the acquisition an "exciting development in the [company's] history," adding Onex has a reputation for taking "corporate carve-outs and building those divisions into industry-leading businesses."


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