Wachovia Acquires Service Contractor Geo E. Fern and Equity Stake in Champion

TSE STAFF
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Charlotte, NC– Wachovia Capital Partners has acquired George E. Fern Co.,  a general service contractor and event producer based in Cincinnati, OH. The deal officially closed September 15th. The nearly $70 million acquisition  was Wachovia’s first venture into the exposition industry. Four days later, Wachovia also purchased an equity stake in Champion Exposition Services, based in Middleboro, MA, thus taking advantage of the synergies to build a larger business.

George Budig, President of George E. Fern, explains the sale with two words: estate planning. At the same time, Budig says he has no plans to retire and plans to stay on with the George E. Fern Co.   He will also continue running other businesses jointly owned with his brother, Otto Budig, Jr. in  industries that serve the banking, farming and real estate markets.

According to TSE’s Who’s Who Among General Service Contractors, George E. Fern has 250 full-time employees and provides services for over 900 expositions and numerous corporate events. Clients include Advanstar Communications, Hart Productions and the Society of Automotive Engineers on the show side and General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Toyota and Time Warner Cable on the  event side.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, the company has 11 offices in nine cities: Cincinnati; Charlotte, NC; Cleveland, OH; Columbus, OH; Indianapolis, IN; Louisville, KY; Kansas City, MO; St. Louis, MO; and Nashville, TN.

The company drew keen interest from numerous strategic and financial players, said Richard Mead, Managing Director for The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc., which represented George E. Fern in the transaction.

Why purchase a service contractor?  Wachovia was attracted to three distinctions of the George E. Fern business:  Fern  is running on attractive margins; has a strong niche position as a regional contractor; and manages profitable events for large corporations.

This is the 17th transaction for JEGI this year, 10 of which involved  conferences and/or trade shows. Mead told Trade Show Executive  that additional good quality businesses are for sale and will close soon.

Reach Sean Smith, Principal, Wachovia Capital Partners, at (704) 383-8059 or seanm.smith@wachovia.com;  George Budig, President, George E. Fern Company at (513) 621-6111 or Mike Cox, Manager, George E. Fern Company at mcox@geofern.com; Richard Mead, Managing Director, The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc. at  (212) 754-0710  or richardm@jegi.com.