Maritz CEO David Peckinpaugh Talks CDS Acquisition and More

Following the July 1 acquisition of the event registration, on-site and leading services company Conventional Data Services (CDS) from a global event company Citizen, Maritz is now well on its way to becoming a dominant player in the registration, accommodation, contact finding, on-site support and data services for some of the largest trade shows and business events in the US.

Both Maritz, a meetings and events company, and Freeman are privately held and terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Maritz representatives did not disclose their client portfolio by the time the newspaper went to press, but CDS can boast a list of clients who have visited the most important industry trade fairs.

In April, CDS announced that has entered into cooperation with Informa Markets (TSNN is owned by Information) to become a full-service strategic event registration and management partner in North America, which includes a list of market-leading B2B events. These include: World of Concrete; SupplySide Network East; International Surface Event (TISE); Water and Wastewater Equipment, Treatment and Transport (WWETT) exhibition; IME West; DesignCon; and New Hope Network’s Natural Products Expo West are just a few.

Maritz President and CEO David Peckinpaugh expressed his enthusiasm for the acquisition of CDS, which will not only expand the company’s portfolio with a large number of clients and events, but will also combine two companies with a rich history in the events industry.

“By adding this new portfolio of clients from CDS, Maritz significantly increases our market share and positions us well for the future,” explained Peckinpaugh. “This acquisition exemplifies our commitment to supporting association and trade show events in this era of changing attendee expectations and behaviors.”

Peckinpaugh added that Maritz will now integrate more than 200 CDS employees, a process that could take up to 36 months, bringing the company’s total workforce to about 2,700 across all of its divisions.

“It’s not all about events – we’re a big company, we have automotive solutions and engagement solutions and business event solutions, but business events are the largest of the three market-facing parts of our business,” he said.

Over the past 15 years, Maritz has strengthened its position in the event industry, starting with acquisition of meeting and event services company Experient in 2012.

With CDS on board, Maritz will be bolstered by expanded talent and services that will help accelerate innovation and bring new products to market. Meanwhile, Maritz customers won’t see any immediate changes as the company begins the integration process, according to Maritz representatives.

The registration area hosted by Maritz at the Elevate event held recently in Vancouver, Canada

“The industry will continue to receive the exceptional experience it has come to expect from both organizations,” said Darren Phalen, president of CDS. “We are excited to share how our combined experience will benefit association and trade show organizers. With this much talent in one organization, we will lead industry innovation to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing the event industry.”

Freeman acquired CDS in fall expand Freeman’s registration data collection capabilities. So why pull out of CDS, and why now? Freeman representatives did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but in a statement Paul Fletcher, Freeman’s chief operating officer, Audio Visual & Event Technology, said he believes Maritz is the right home for CDS and its talented team.

“Freeman remains focused on delivering unforgettable experiences so that we are in the best position to deliver meaningful and impactful events for organizers, exhibitors and attendees,” he said.

TSNN had the opportunity to speak with Peckinpaugh to learn more about the acquisition, what it means for Maritz customers and the exhibition industry as a whole.

What prompted Maritz to acquire CDS from Freeman and how long did the transaction take to complete?

The talks started after the first of the year, but they really heated up in February, March or April when Freeman initiated the sale process. We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Freeman for decades (and) we’re great partners who worked very closely together. So the timeline and the sale process was initiated by Freeman. But as soon as we found out about it, we jumped in (with) both feet and arms and everything else to show our interest (in buying the CDS) because it’s such a logical fit and a good fit for us and them.

(CDS) is moving from a family-owned company into Freeman and now family-owned into Maritz, and that’s really good continuity. I think Freeman saw the cultural fit and that we were a great destination for CDS customers and their employees, so it was one of those great win-win-win scenarios that we’re all excited about.

How does the introduction of CDS fit into Maritz’s overall strategic goals?

The events side of the business at Maritz started in 1958, so we’ve been around for 66 years. We acquired Experient in 2012, and before that (Maritz) was almost 100% corporate and we had one association client. I spent eight years at Experient, so when I joined Maritz, it was a company I knew, and we were really excited about adding an association, a trade show, and a live event space, and (since then) we’ve really done a great job of growing that business organically. But then you get a unique opportunity like CDS that comes along and you have to take advantage of it. We did that, and we’re really excited about it.

What is the strategy for management and staff at CDS?

Everyone is coming on board. They have a full portfolio of clients and events, their teams are stretched, and our teams are full. It’s not like we have all this excess capacity, so everyone is on board, management is on board and it’s business as usual. As we told the teams last week, the way you were operating two weeks ago and last week is going to be operating next week and will continue to be operating. We have an integration plan, but it’s going to take some time. We’re being very patient as an acquirer and we have probably a three-year window, which is realistic because we’re working through all the details. Some of the back-end stuff will come quite quickly, but everything that’s customer-facing is absolutely handled hands-on and is done in a very collaborative way with our clients so that we don’t do anything that disrupts the great relationship and service that they already have.

How do you think this acquisition will expand Maritz’s service offering and innovation potential for its association and trade fair clients?

If you look at two industry leaders and you have the opportunity to combine them, the number one thing that excites me is the talent — (CDS) has great talent across the organization. So this infusion of new talent, new eyes, new energy will be great for Maritz. When we look at the strengths of both and how do we combine them — the old 1 + 1 is greater than 3, you hope. That’s the idea here that we can combine the best of both, and that will only enhance the offering that we have for our customers, enhance the service, the technology of the solutions, the list goes on. And we’re going to drive innovation because we now have a significant portfolio of customers and our access to data and trends across that portfolio is unmatched, so we’re excited about what that means.

CDS and Freeman have always published trend reports and we do the same – that’s what we did Registration Insight Report about 6-8 weeks ago, so now think about that opportunity. And we’re now adding housing capabilities to CDS that they didn’t have before, so you have this comprehensive, robust solution for the association and trade show market, in addition to the event management side that we’ve always had. It’s pretty exciting and I think our customers are going to be really excited about it.

Is there anything else we should know about this deal?

Everyone is really excited about the acquisitions and what it means and the impact it has, but it really doesn’t impact our Maritz clients at all other than… it shows the continued investment in the space, the involvement in associations and trade shows. For CDS clients, it’s business as usual and everyone just (must) let the process run its course and it will.

Our customers are number one, and our people are at the forefront. We don’t want to do anything to disrupt or disrupt either of those relationships, and I think that’s the key message that (this is) a really powerful combination of two industry leaders coming together to continue to lead the industry with product solutions, innovation, data, data insights, all of those benefits that people would expect from us.

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