The recent purchase of show and conference producer Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. Canada (MMPI) by Informa Plc is expected to herald a slew of new events in Canada and the U.S.
The Switzerland-based company purchased MMPI from its U.S.-based parent Vornado for an undisclosed price. The MMPI Canada unit, now renamed Informa Canada Inc., is already the largest Canadian producer and marketer of trade shows, consumer shows and conferences for the construction, real estate, craft, art and design markets, most notably the Construct Canada, Real Estate Forums and One of a Kind Shows.
The Canadian division, with offices in Toronto and Vancouver and approximately 50 employees, currently produces 59 events from coast to coast annually. The number and pace of events is expected to increase as the business-to-business giant brings some of its international conferences and products to the North American market.
“If anything it gets better because if we have potentially more shows or more events that we want to launch, we have an owner who would listen and be interested in that because it is their business,” said George Przybylowski, Vice-President of Construction/Real Estate for MMPI Canada (now Informa Canada).”
Informa to geo-clone events
In a statement announcing the purchase, Steven Levy, president of the Canadian company, similarly predicted an ambitious growth spurt due to the global mass of its new owner. “Over the next few years, plans are to expand our current business through organic growth, as well as by geo-cloning events from Informa’s repertoire.”
Przybylowski and his team got its start in 1989 with the launch of the trade shows and in 1992 it introduced real estate conferences after a formerly successful office and industrial trade show could no longer continue “because the market had completely tanked in 1990-1991 with respect to commercial and residential in the Greater Toronto Area,” he explained.
“The trade show was no longer viable but the industry encouraged us, oddly enough, to keep the conference going, you have got a good conference,” he added. “So out of that was born the Real Estate Forum.”
The V-P of the Canadian said MMPI whipped up a successful formula that endures today. “The principles and the value proposition of our conferences has always been and will continue to be that we will try to make sure that every conference will look at the most compelling issues related to that subject matter. So if it is Ottawa, what is going on in Ottawa, if it is RealLeasing, what is going on in the office, industrial, retail leasing markets.”
“So compelling topics, the best speakers that can speak on those topics at the lowest possible price. That is our value proposition.”
MMPI Canada while owned by Vorando
MMPI Canada did not decline during the six years that it was owned by Vornado, said Przybylowski, who noted that the Canadian unit had continued to add conferences and shows during that span. “We are now working with somebody for whom this is their core business – so they have an even greater interest in having this thing work.”
When the Canadian principals sold the business to Vornado Realty Trust of the U.S., they combined the business with an existing company, Merchandise Mart Properties, which owned and operated a number of shows. It grew over the past six years to a conference and trade show portfolio that includes the 21 Real Estate Forums and conferences, Construct Canada/PM Expo, ROOFTech, Springfest, the BUILDEX Shows as well as Art Toronto, One of a Kind Shows, Interior Design Shows, IIDEX, and The Artist Project.
While the Canadian business was successful, tough times in the U.S. commercial real estate market prompted Vornado to reconsider its holding. “Out of that discussion, they saw the fact that it made a lot more sense to sell the Canadian business than to keep it because what role did a business of consumer and trade shows and B-to-B conferences have in relation to a company that owns high-quality office space in San Francisco, New York, Washington and Chicago,” said Przybylowski.
Informa Plc has 8,200 employees more than 8,000 events, and a market value of over $3.5 billion, making it one of the world’s largest global media services organizations.