The consultancy Stillwell Partners LLC has sold Advertising Week, a company that runs trade shows and educational services for marketing, media and technology professionals, to Emerald Holding Inc.,
an operator of business-to-business events.
Stillwell founded Advertising Week in 2004 as an annual New York event that grew to encompass hundreds of panels and talks each year, often reflecting the changing face of marketing and advertising, as well as plenty of parties thrown by industry players.
Advertising Week has also expanded to include events in London, Tokyo, Sydney, Mexico City and Johannesburg, with attendees and 3,000 speakers participating in its trade shows each year, a spokesperson said.
Hervé Sedky, president and chief executive officer of Emerald, said the acquisition was a cash deal that provided Advertising Week’s principals with unspecified incentives to remain with the company until at least 2026. He declined to elaborate.
Advertising Week co-founder Lance Pillersdorf recently became CEO, successful fellow co-founder Matt Scheckner, who will move into the role of chairman. Both will report to Mr. Sedky. Ruth Mortimer, president of Advertising Week, will also remain at the company.
Mr. Scheckner said the acquisition would allow Advertising Week to build its presence in Africa and East Asia while establishing a second location in Europe.
Advertising Week generated $16 million in revenue for 2019 before its global events went entirely virtual in 2020, a spokesperson said. Revenue plummeted to $8 million in 2020 and $13 million last year, he said. But the company began hosting in-person events again in October, and is on track to exceed its prepandemic revenue total this year, the spokesman added.
“The definition, for me, of success for Advertising Week is, will it be here in 10 years or 15 years or 20 years?” said Mr. Scheckner. “The bottom line is, people want to be with people.”
Corporate sponsorships are Advertising Week’s top revenue source, but the company plans to supplement its live-events business with further investments in content production and digital subscription products such as professional development platform AWLearn, Mr. Scheckner said.
Mr. Scheckner said he considered a sale for some time before he was approached several months ago by Emerald Chief Financial Officer David Doft, who had met Mr. Scheckner during Mr. Doft’s 12-year tenure as head of finance for advertising holding company MDC Partners, now known as Stagwell Marketing Group LLC.
Emerald Holding reported $145 million in revenues for last year, and has said it expects to be north of $300 million this year. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017, but has since more than 80% of its initial share value, most of that lost decline after the pandemic halted in-person events world-wide beginning in early 2020.
Over the past several months, the firm has acquired events-based companies centered on cannabis and weddings as it looks to enter new sectors and centralize human resources, finance and IT services for its various brands. It has also begun creating its own live and virtual events, such as Web3 gathering D2 Decentralization Deciphered and online mental-health conference Mentera, Mr. Sedky said.
Emerald will continue expanding through mergers and acquisitions while attempting to pivot toward multimedia services and tech tools to help connect people at events, he said.
“The business that we were in, of renting a big space, subletting it to a bunch of companies and bringing as many people as possible there, is really not going to be successful moving forward,” he said.
In selling Advertising Week, however, Stillwell Partners has not become an empty shell: It still produces Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
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