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SEMA To Acquire the Mega PRI Trade Show


Diamond Bar, CA – The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) announced plans to acquire the Performance Racing Industry (PRI), organizer of the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show and publisher of PRI Magazine. The deal is expected to close in late March. Other suitors were likely Advanstar Communications and Marketplace Events, both active in the automotive/performance/racing sector, plus others looking to diversify. Terms of the deal, which was facilitated by DeSilva + Phillips LLC, were not released.

SEMA organizes the huge SEMA Show which was ranked #4 on the latest Trade Show Executive Gold 100 list with 855,560 net square feet of exhibit space in 2010. The PRI Trade Show made the Gold 100 at #56 with 289,400 nsf. The two shows are held a month apart, with SEMA running October 30 to November 2 in Las Vegas, and PRI set for November 29 to December 1 in Orlando. SEMA said the PRI trade show will be a separate and distinct event.

“We carefully considered all options, and SEMA was the obvious choice to carry on the legacy of the PRI brand,” said PRI founder Steve Lewis. “SEMA is financially sound and has an experienced management team,” he said. “They bring a long-term outlook to the table, as well as exceptional insight into the trade show business overall.”

From SEMA’s point of view, PRI complements SEMA’s mission to increase the success of their customers’ business. Scooter Brothers, SEMA chairman, said, “Having worked with the folks of PRI for many years, I know that racing entrepreneurs consider the PRI trade show a unique event and valuable voice.” Brothers said the transition will preserve and protect that voice, along with the show’s authenticity and unique character.

Lewis said SEMA was a good fit with his company. SEMA noted that some of its own board members had ties to the PRI Trade Show as exhibitors and advertisers and were very familiar with the organization.

Lewis struck the deal in order to focus more time on his son’s promising racing career. Last October, Michael Lewis clinched his third Formula 3 Italia win of the season, and was awarded the 2011 Formula 3 Italia Rookie Championship. Success looks promising on the international front as well, following his successful run in a Ferrari Formula 1 car last November.

The PRI management office will remain in Laguna Beach and will now be headed by John Kilroy. With 21 years of management experience at PRI including roles as editor, associate publisher and vice president, Kilroy will now lead the PRI team as vice president and general manager.

When a Man Bites a Dog, That’s News
“Acquisitions are always news, but when the buyer is an association, that is big news,” said Doug Ducate, president and CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). He noted that many associations are currently reviewing their event ownership and evaluating the best use of their assets. “For most, that could mean a decision to seek a strategic partner and focus on their core business. However, SEMA’s acquisition of PRI points out you never know who might be interested in investing in your event,” he added.

Ken Sonenclar, a managing director at DeSilva + Phillips, said the deal embodies a happy confluence of events and circumstances.  “SEMA’s strategy for extending its footprint across more of the automotive space is realized in the most logical way possible, and Steve Lewis now gets the opportunity to spend all the time he wants to manage his son’s already successful racing career.”

Reach Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of events & communications, at (909) 396-0289 or; Steve Lewis at (949) 499-5413 or; John Kilroy at (949) 499-5413 or

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