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  • Visit KC is looking for a new President and CEO because Ronnie Burt will step down Jan. 31 after settlement of a lawsuit.

Fern Exposition Management Acquires the Company from Freeman

Hil Anderson
, Senior Editor
July 2, 2012
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By Hil Anderson, senior editor

Cincinnati, OH - A management team led by Fern COO Aaron Bludworth and backed by an investment group  acquired Fern Exposition & Event Services from Freeman June 30.

Freeman CEO Joe Popolo said the decision to divest Fern came after an intensive review of the strategic goals of the two companies. “It became clear that it was in the best interest of both companies for Fern to continue operating as a standalone entity,” he said.

Fern’s management team was also expecting a bright future for the company. “We are excited to open a new chapter of Fern’s impressive legacy and enhance our well-proven model of personalized service. The future is very bright for our team of exposition and event experts and our diverse client base,” said Bludworth, who will assume the position of president and CEO of Fern.

Bludworth declined to provide the terms of the sale but told Trade Show Executive (TSE) the deal was mutually beneficial to Fern and Freeman. Freeman acquired Fern in June 2011 in a package deal with Wheelhouse Solutions that also included Champion Exposition Services and Immersa Marketing.

Fern had remained virtually a stand-alone company under Freeman rather than being folded into the Texas giant’s familiar brand.  “We enjoyed the relationship with Freeman and with Champion, but it’s exciting to return to Fern’s roots,” said Bludworth, who joined Fern in 2008.

Fern is headquartered in Cincinnati and has eight U.S. branch offices. It has been an independent company for most of its 100+ years. Fern services over 750 shows annually, including several on the TSE Gold 100 list of largest U.S. exhibitions. Freeman is headquartered in Dallas, with 70 offices in North America,  and produces more than 15,000 events annually, including 57 of Trade Show Executive's Gold 100  trade shows.

Like Freeman, Fern began as a family business and built a solid core of loyal customers for their general services contracting needs for decades.

“This will enable us to focus on Fern’s core model, which is a personalized approach to trade show organizers,” Bludworth said. “Our team acts as an extension of their staff.”

Bludworth said his company planned to maintain a solid working relationship with Freeman and other service contractors, and stressed Fern’s customers would not notice the latest change in ownership since there has been no change to Fern’s management and staff.

Reach Joe Popolo at (214) 445-1000 or joe.popolo@freemanco.com; Aaron Bludworth at (513) 562-0432 or abludworth@fernexpo.com

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