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A HISTORY LESSON: THE CORPORATIONS BEHIND THE CON

on August 16, 2017 - 11:29am

How many degrees of separation are there between Boston Comic Con and a shipping list that hung in a London coffee shop in 1734?  What about Star Wars Celebration and a 16th century Dutch humanist ? Not as many as you may think and the answers lie in the history of the corporations that ultimately own both of these shows

While writing about the transition of Boston Comic Con to Fan Expo Boston (you can read that HERE) I became interested in learning more about Fan Expo HQ, which has owned Boston Comic Con (in addition to 8 other conventions) for the past year.  I felt Boston was an excellent show and I've always been impressed with Fan Expo Canada the times I've attended, so I wanted to know more about the people behind the curtains.

Once I began researching I realized how very little I know about Fan Expo.  Due to Official Pix being the former official licensee of Star Wars photos under Lucasfilm I was aware they bought the exhibition portion of C2 Ventures including Dallas Comic Con and Fan Days, but that was about it. I quickly learned that Fan Expo Canada, which takes up 750,000 square feet of space and plans to host over 129,000 attendees, began 23 years ago with a show that saw just about 1,500 people walk through it's doors.

That show, founded by Aman Gupta in 1995, was the Canadian National Comic Book Expo.  Over the years his shows evolved and new shows were created, all of which came under his company Hobby Star Marketing. I wanted to dig deeper into the history of Fan Expo, but needed to open another door first.  The top of each Fan Expo HQ website is a grey bar that says "informa."  What was Informa and what was it's relationship to these shows?

Informa is a large multimedia corporation which has four operating divisons, one of which is Global Exhibition.  It is under this division, known as Informa Exhibitions, which Fan Expo HQ has fallen since being acquired by them in 2013. According to their website, Informa Exhibitions organizes over 200 exhibition and trade shows around the world each year and has a staff of over 900.  Their events cover several markets, including Beauty, Construction, Design, Life Sciences, Maritime, Health & Nutrition, Pop Culture and Real Estate. Informa Exhibitions had £306.9 million in revenue, which accounts for roughly 23% of the total reveue of their parent company.

By way of various acquisitions over the years Informa has ties as far back as 1734, when Edward Lloyd started one of the world's longest continuosly running journals "Lloyd's List." Imagine what Lloyd would have thought if you told him his name would be mentioned in the same breath as a company which was doing £1.36 billion in revenue 283 years later?

At some point while combing through website after website in the wee hours of the morning I remembered ReedPop, which runs Star Wars Celebration, New York Comic Con and many other major shows, was part of a larger company called Reed Exhibitions.  I wanted to know who "Reed" was and hoped I'd find an interesting story in the company's history.  And that I did.

Reed Exhibitions, which got it's start in 1966 and is headquartered in London, is one of four market segments of RELX Group.  Prior to changing it's name to RELX, the corportation was called Reed Elsevier. According to their 2016 Annual Report Reed Exhibitions is the world's leading events business with over 500 events in their portfolio covering 43 industry sectors in 30 countries, have 4,000 employees and revenues of £1.047 billion.

RELX Group serves customers in more than 180 countries, with offices in about 40 countries and employs approximately 30,000 people. The origin of RELX Group, which did £6.895 billion in revenues in 2016, can be traced back to Albert E. Reed and the newsprint manufacturing operation he started near Maidstone, Kent in 1895. The name Elsevier goes back even further.

Jacobus George Robbers created the "Elsevier Publishing Company" (in Dutch: Uitgeversmaatschappij Elsevier) in 1880.  The company was named in honor of the Dutch family "House of Elzivir" who were printers known for publishing the works of 16th century humanist and Catholic priest Erasmus of Rotterdam. Elsevier was acquired by Reed in 1993

What can be taken from this research, besides a better understanding of the structure and history behind the entities?  These two companies, Informa and RELX, which do billions in revenue each year; with all their risk assessments and strategic management, feel it's a worthwhile investment to keep pop culture conventions in their portfolio.

Considering the happiness these shows bring to people around the world I feel fortunate for that fact.  Just as important it makes me respect and appreciate all those people who are organizing shows on their own, often with their own money, and without the support that comes from being part of a major corportation.

Given the state of the world today we need the happiness conventions affords us more than ever.

 

To learn more about these companies click on the names below.

Boston Comic Con

Fan Expo

Informa Exhibitions

Informa

Star Wars Celebration

New York Comic Con

ReedPop

Reed Exhibtions

RELX

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