Steve Monnington reviews the latest moves in M&A in the sector:

It has been a busy 2024 so far here at Mayfield Towers. We have already completed three transactions (two of which we can report on this edition) and have several more in the pipeline.

We had the pleasure of advising Raccoon Media Group on their acquisition of Abilities Expo in the USA. Raccoon was acquired in September last year by Cuil Bay Capital, Douglas Emslie’s new investment vehicle set up after the sale of Tarsus to Informa, and this is their first acquisition under Cuil Bay’s ownership and is firmly in line with Raccoon’s strategy of owning events with a strong community engagement.

Abilities Expo is a series of seven events, run by industry veterans Lew Shomer and David Korse, for the disabled sector which connect the disability community to a wide range of resources to help improve accessibility and promote greater independence.

Our second transaction of the year was the sale of QG Media, a London organiser of 16 cyber security conferences around the world focusing on Cyber Security for Critical Assets and Manufacturing Security. The founders of the business, Ravi Manji and Kudsia Kakar, started planning the sale in 2019 but this was hijacked by Covid. Having thrived in 2020 and 2021 through a digital offering, the business emerged from Covid in a strong position and they have sold a majority stake to the Information Security Media Group (ISMG) in a strategic partnership which will allow QG Media to leverage ISMG’s media resources and data engines to grow the business.

CloserStill Media continued its interest in businesses with non-traditional event formats with the acquisition of German organiser, Trailblazer Summits. The transaction was actually completed at the end of 2023 but only announced one month later. Trailblazer runs confex style events in logistics, accounting, procurement, digital marketing and construction and, as with the rest of CloserStill’s portfolio, they have a strong emphasis on content. For many years CloserStill focused on Tech and Healthcare events but several of their five 2023 acquisitions – including UKI Media and Events, their largest acquisition to date – have seen a move into new sectors including transport and hydrogen and carbon capture. The acquisition of Trailblazer continues this trend and brings the CloserStill German portfolio of events to more than 25.

Horizon Capital has acquired a majority stake in GFC Media Group, a corporate finance and investment banking events business founded in 2009 by Alex Johnson who remains CEO. The portfolio of conferences, curated 1-2-1 meetings and awards focuses on the Bonds and Loans markets where there is a high degree of complexity in the sale process and, as a result, high fees to be earned. The events are instrumental in helping blue-chip clients achieve ROI through maintaining market positioning and presence, networking and meeting customers, and remaining informed on market developments.

Horizon Capital is a relatively new business founded in early 2018 and were the original investors in Agribriefing which sold its media and events business (Farmers Guardian and LAMMA) to Arc Group in 2021. Their sector focus is technology and services and their buy and build approach should mean we can expect further acquisitions using GFC as the platform.