More Details Emerge on $2.9 Million Arbitration Award for Poss and Green

DARLENE GUDEA, PUBLISHER & EDITOR & HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Dallas, TX – Galen Poss, former president of Hanley Wood Exhibitions (HWE), certainly lived up to his designation as one of TSE’s “People to Watch” (Trade Show Executive, August 2009). He and former HWE executive vice president, Michael Green, were awarded $2.9 million by a Dallas arbitrator in a breach-of-contract dispute with Hanley Wood last Summer. The award included back pay, interest and bonuses for 2008 that were the bone of contention. “We are delighted with the outcome – both the award and the confirmation that the decision we made to enforce the provisions of our contract was an appropriate one,” Poss told Trade Show Executive.

Will the arbitration award stand? Attorney Trey Cox of Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox, who along with attorney Jason Dennis represented Poss and Green, told Trade Show Executive that there are very limited appellate options. “Both parties agreed in advance to handle this dispute through binding arbitration,” he said. “Hanley Wood would have to establish a miscarriage of justice.”

Hanley Wood had no immediate comment on the outcome of the arbitration, but Poss said he was looking ahead to new challenges. “I have started to do some consulting work for overseas clients,” he said. When asked if he would return to the exhibition industry full-time, Poss said, “I’m not ruling anything out, but right now nothing is either on or off the table.”

Green told Trade Show Executive, “Given the economy, it is not a bad time to sit on the sidelines.”  He said that if an opportunity arises where he could bring value to the stakeholders and is backed up with strong financial resources, he would consider it.

Poss and Green joined Hanley Wood in 2000 from Miller Freeman to run HW’s new exhibition division, which currently includes 17 trade shows aimed at the volatile construction industry. Three of its 2008 shows were listed in the 2009 TSE Gold 100 directory: World of Concrete (No. 16); Surfaces (No. 40); and International Pool & Spa Expo/Backyard Living Expo (No. 100). Hanley Wood had been acquired the previous year by Veronis, Suhler, Stevenson but was sold to an investment group led by JPMorgan Partners for $650 million in June 2005.

The dispute arose in 2008 when Poss and Green contended they were in line for six-figure bonuses as well as increases in base salary based on the division’s performance. This amounted to $437,634 for Poss and $362,582 for Green. Hanley Wood refused, saying the bonuses and increases were discretionary, and that the economic slump of 2009 made it impossible for the company to make the payments and meet its debt covenants.

However, HW’s exhibition division reported record revenues of more than $60 million in 2008 and an EBITDA of more than $40 million. But in 2009, both revenues and earnings dropped significantly. “These guys did such a good job that their division became Hanley Wood’s profit center,” said attorney Trey Cox. “For the company to refuse payment was wrong and the arbitrator’s decision fixes that.”

The arbitrator’s decision includes money for the bonuses, salary adjustments and 12 months of severance pay. The decision also orders Hanley Wood to pay pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and arbitration costs.

Poss said he and Green deliberately laid low during the arbitration process and that he personally enjoyed the time off. He was, however, enthusiastic about the prospects for the exhibition industry as it recovers from last year’s swoon. “I believe there are big opportunities in this industry,” he said. “Any time there are big changes in an industry, there are also big opportunities.”

Reach Galen Poss at (817) 832-3210 or gposs@verizon.net; Michael Green at (817) 832-3230 or mvg73@me.com; Frank Anton, CEO of Hanley Wood LLC, at (202) 452-0800 or fanton@hanleywood.com; Trey Cox at (214) 981-3800 or tcox@lynnllp.com