The Blackstone-owned Clarion Events has acquired the Design Shanghai and Design China Beijing exhibitions from Media 10, of the UK. Design Shanghai was launched just five years ago, followed by the Beijing event in 2018. While terms have not been disclosed, it is believed that Clarion has paid £34m for the events which are making EBITDA of some £2.5m.
The deal illuminates the progress of the 17-year-old, privately-owned, £40m-revenue Media 10. The company has 30 events, 13 B2B magazines, employs 250 people and has quadrupled revenue in less than 10 years. But, beyond the UK exhibitions industry, it is still relatively unknown. The Chinese sale has changed that.
It was launched in 2002 by Lee Newton, a one time B2B magazine sales executive (with nine friends, hence ‘Media 10’). After early loss-making years, principally as a B2B publisher, the company’s fortunes have been transformed by four acquisitions and launches across the last 15 years:
2004: Launch of the highly successful Grand Designs Live exhibitions and magazine under a long-term licence to complement the global TV franchise, launched in the UK 20 years ago. Operated erratically in Australia for several years, but still firing on all cylinders in London and Birmingham.
2009: Acquisition of the 111-year-old Ideal Home Show from the Daily Mail after it had fallen on hard times. The exhibition has a distinguished history punctuated by no fewer than 11 visits by Queen Elizabeth and onetime wall-to-wall television coverage. Media 10 bought the legendary UK event (estimated to have revenue of some £5m) for a nominal sum and has rebuilt it into a 17-day event attracting some 250k people annually. It has also cloned the show in Glasgow (successful) – and China (second year and testing). The Ideal Home Show, along with Grand Designs, the Cake & Bake Show, and other TV-linked events has given Media 10 a reputation for consumer exhibitions, although most of its activity is in B2B, especially in design, building and architecture…
2014: Launch of UK Construction Week as eight specialist building exhibitions under one roof, effectively replacing the UK’s long-dead Interbuild B2B exhibition which Lee Newton had attended as a rookie advertising salesman. What is now the UK’s largest construction industry exhibition (attended by more than 30,000 professionals and 600 exhibitors) takes place this year at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre and includes co-located events on technology, civil engineering, energy, concrete, and timber, followed by Grand Designs Live for consumers.
2014: Launch of Design Shanghai which quickly became a focus of the booming Chinese design market, and attracts 250 exhibitors and 60k visitors from some 20 countries. Hence Clarion’s 13x EBITDA price.
Media 10’s growth has been bootstrapped with only an unused bank overdraft as an early safety net. It is based in the CEO-founder’s low-cost Essex homeland, rather than in London, and has consistently re-invested would-be profits in new events: even with the increase in revenue from £11m in 2009 to £42.3m in 2018, operating profit has seldom been more than £2m. What started out mainly as a publishing company now derives 85% of its revenue from exhibitions and live events.
Sale of the Chinese exhibitions marks the first time the company has sold any assets and Lee Newton seems to like the taste, more so since he might once have believed the £35m proceeds exceeded the value of his whole company.
Newton, who has a fledgling design show in Johannesburg, is now talking about how to invest his windfall profits – with thoughts of more launches in India and China. Media 10 is no longer flying below the radar.