LONDON – Blackstone has made another move in the exhibitions industry with its acquisition of Britain’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC) Group, the operators of four convention centers and other public venues in the United Kingdom.
The October transaction was Blackstone’s fourth acquisition in the trade show sector in three years. The equity fund acquired the U.S. show organizer UrbanExpositions in 2015, rebranding it Clarion UX after picking up Britain’s Clarion Events two years later. Clarion then acquired PennWell in the Spring of 2018.
The NEC deal adds a portfolio of venues grouped together in Birmingham to the growing mix. NEC currently operates the National Exhibition Centre and The International Convention Centre (ICC). It also runs Arena Birmingham and Genting Arena, along with the ticketing agency The Ticket Factory, and also the Amadeus catering company. “NEC Group is iconic, and we are excited about our new partnership as we look to leverage our firm’s capabilities in support of the team,” Lionel Assant, European Head of Private Equity at Blackstone, said in the written announcement of the acquisition.
The convention centers would appear to be a likely venue for various Clarion shows. The NEC currently hosts the Grand Design Live and Spring Fair Exhibitions along with a number of popular consumer events.
Blackstone declined to comment when asked by Trade Show Executive about plans for new show launches or plans for future expansion or possible renovations to the buildings on the NEC campus; however an extensive renovation of the NEC began earlier this year. “Blackstone’s track record in scaling companies, sector knowledge and real estate capabilities, make them the ideal new partner for NEC Group to realize the next phase of our ambitious growth strategy,” said NEC Group Chief Executive Paul Thandi.
Blackstone acquired NEC Group from LCD, an investment firm that bankrolled a management buyout of the company in 2015.