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MSouth Equity Partners Acquires Fern Exposition Services

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ATLANTA – Fern Exposition Services, one of the largest services contractors in North America, has been acquired by MSouth Equity Partners, a private equity firm. Fern was the exhibition services contractor for six Trade Show Executive (TSE) Fastest 50 shows in 2022 and 16 TSE Gold 100 shows in 2021. 

Fern will join Nth Degree, an existing MSouth portfolio company and provider of trade show management, labor and event production to some of the biggest brands in the United States and internationally. The combination of these two companies gives MSouth a huge footprint in the trade show industry.  

In a statement, Fern explained that combining the two companies will bring numerous benefits and new services to each other’s customers and will open up new market opportunities in a broader set of cities and with additional services across the country — with a focus on customer service.  

“The consumer and business event market is in the midst of a substantial resurgence,” said Barry Boniface, an MSouth Partner. “Spending in that segment is projected to outpace overall advertising and marketing investments as brands shift budgets to activities that engage buyers, create emotional connections and increase sales. We believe that is a significant opportunity.” 

Fern services more than 1,400 trade shows and events annually as an official services provider. 

Fern will be led by long-time company executives Steve Larsen, COO; Michael Cox, Executive Vice President; and Neil McMullin, Senior Vice President. Fern CEO Aaron Bludworth and CFO J.T. Barclay will retire after supporting the leadership transition. Nth Degree CEO John Hense and CFO Samantha French will take on the additional responsibilities currently being performed by Bludworth and Barclay. 

“This is an exciting combination that enhances the powerful offerings that both Fern and Nth Degree provide to our customers,” said Bludworth. “I’m grateful for the dedication of the Fern leadership team and employees throughout the company and see great opportunities ahead as they continue to exceed customer expectations under the leadership of Mike, Steve, Neil and the Nth Degree executive team.” 

Nth Degree offers a range of services, including exhibit and event labor, installation supervision, trade show management, retail installation and transportation to its clients spanning all industries.  

Related. New Training Program Focuses on Exhibitor Success 

Nth Degree operates throughout the U.S., with foreign operations in Canada, Europe and Asia. In addition, the company’s event division, Nth Degree Events, creates large-scale corporate meetings, user conferences and exhibitions. The company delivers more than 4,000 different industry events, conferences, congresses and exhibitions annually. 

Nth Degree will continue to be led by Hense and French, along with Russell Greenway, CCO, and Robert Lowe, president of Nth Degree Events, and other members of the company’s executive team. 

“Although Nth Degree and Fern will continue to operate independently, our customers will gain substantial benefits,” said Hense. “Nth Degree and Fern clients get greater resources in more cities around the country and internationally. We’ll also be able to offer expanded event services, including space and sponsorship sales, strategy, speaker management, housing services, and more.”  

Fern is a forward-thinking company in the trade show industry and was particularly on display during the pandemic. One example is the cancellation refund initiative it created at the height of the pandemic. Another is The Fern Exhibitor Success program, which trade show and event organizers can provide to their exhibitors to help them make the most of their events. The 2021 ESCA Innovation Award was bestowed upon Fern for its Fern Health Check, which enabled dozens of events and tens of thousands of attendees to return to the trade show floor safely through vaccine- and testing-verification solutions, as well as on-site PCR and antigen testing. 

According to Fern, this offering was not about revenue generation but about helping the trade show industry. The hope is this will continue under this new ownership.  

Reach Aaron Bludworth at (513) 562-0432 or 

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