Nineteen Events CEO Peter Jones and his team celebrate turning to private equity one year ago.
What made you choose the private equity route?
It was a life-changing moment two Christmas’s ago. We were fresh off the back of an incredibly busy International Security Expo at Olympia; we had several approaches from trade buyers, and I had that feeling of ‘here we go again’.
Except this time not with the usual eagerness that accompanies a sale. The thought of a 1-2 year earnout and starting from cold in a different sector just wasn’t exciting me.
I was also offered the opportunity of a CEO role in a bigger organisation, but didn’t fancy the thought of turning up on a Monday morning and conforming. So, I turned to my mentor and chairman, Phil Soar, who I have worked with for 12 years.
Phil explained the PE dynamics and I liked what I heard. A lot. I could have the best of both worlds – maintain the entrepreneurial spirit of a business yet have a wall of investment behind us to grow something bigger.
One year in, how has PE changed your business?
Radically. We’ve gone from organising one show to several. From a team of eight to 44 and growing. From an old office lovingly referred to as ‘the cupboard’ to a new big, open and beautiful HQ, still in the heart of Wimbledon, hence our name.
Perhaps more importantly, we’ve had the investment to attract talent that in a previous life was out of reach. For example, we appointed the highly regarded Alison Jackson as group MD; our highly experienced CFO, Jon Lacey, led the finance team at Ascential when it was sold to ITE Group; and our group head of sales, Jonathan Kinchin, again from Ascential, runs the trading floor at Nineteen.
These, along with many other hires at Nineteen, are serious players at the table, know what they’re doing, and get on with the job.
You’ve come from an owner/driver background, how have you found the transition?
The balance point is an art. Step back too far, I get clubbed by my chairman, lean too much on the front foot and risk undermining my team. This for me has been the biggest challenge but we are getting there.
Nineteen appears to be on the acquisition trail, what’s next?
We’ve acquired Western Business Exhibitions and also Broden Media. Two fantastic businesses run by excellent people, passionate about the sectors they serve.
Integrating always comes with its own set of challenges (locations, systems, culture to name a few) but we are sensitive to that and its takes time to adjust. Ultimately, the acquisitions so far have a stake in the bigger group and therefore our long-term plan, together, is aligned to grow the overall business.
Next up? That would be telling, but we are onto our third. It’s really exciting, fits the Nineteen model of major-scale trade exhibitions.
I also believe that any organisation is only a collection of people, and we have a world-class chairman, brilliant investment partners, and a really great team at Nineteen.
This article recently featured in the December issue of Exhibition News magazine. For more content like this, click here.