16/09/2021

Expomedia

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We proposed to sell MacExpo to the Expomedia Group, but they naturally asked us to get some letter from Apple to confirm they were content for us to use the show name.

Apple was the pre-existing name of a number of the Beatles operations, most notably Apple Corps Ltd and Apple Records formed back in 1968. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne had only formed Apple Computer on All Fools’ Day, 1st April 1976. Apple’s launch attracted the attention of The Beatles. About this time a British barrister, when asked to identify the group by a judge in another court case, reputedly described it in a pompous and out-of-touch manner, ‘I believe they are a popular beat combo, m’lud.’

Apple Records imagery

In 1978 this beat combo sued Apple Computer for infringement of its brand.  It took until 1981 for the two parties to resolve a one-off payment of $80,000 to grant the right to use Apple with computers.  But the agreement also stipulated that Apple Computer would not market audio or video products with any recording or playback capabilities.  There was clearly no inkling at Apple about the forthcoming MIDI protocol (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) launched three years later in 1984, or the multimedia systems that would become essential for PCs later in the 1980s, and certainly there was no consideration of iTunes or iPods way back then.  As a result Apple Computer and The Beatles would meet in court regularly on these matters.

Thus, Apple Computer became heavily litigious down the years, so it came as an enormous surprise that I was able to get Apple’s exhibition manager in Cupertino to give me a formal note that confirmed they had no hassle with the usage of our show’s name provided we added the word ‘Live’, we became MacLive Expo – the sale to Expomedia could proceed.

I said farewell to my team, which consisted of my son, Matt, and honorary son, Mark. It was just as well we parted in good spirits because just a few weeks later Expomedia invited me to a meeting of several show owners they had recently acquired. The meeting was to discuss the future, I engaged in lively debate with them. They then approached me and offered me the dual role of UK Events Managing Director and globally their Group Events Strategy & Development Director, in under a month I was again Matt and Mark’s boss – you can imagine just how thrilled they were!

Expomedia Group and UK business cards

There were a few issues because of course I still had Adobe Live and Nikon Live events to organise, but we agreed I could do that from my Expomedia office. Though as we worked together it became quite clear they expected me to drop the shows, which I eventually did as cleanly as I could.

Jane was none too pleased that having sold much of the business that, rather than retire, I was prepared to get sucked back in so readily. But her concerns were somewhat assuaged when I pointed out that I would have to travel broadly and would always, at my expense, have her join me – for example we soon went to Mumbai, New Delhi and Moscow.

We were on an acquisition trail in the UK and part of my role was to bring in these acquisitions, to maximise growth and profits and convert them to an Expomedia look-and-feel. But I soon found that there would be regular interruptions from above, particularly with personnel, and that is precisely why I had tended to run my own organisation in the past. The Group Managing Director was an Austrian, based as often there as in Watford, so communications were not great

It came to a head when one of my UK event show managers, that I had inherited, confessed to me that he did not have the required skills for the role. I offered him three ways forward, we might jointly look for another more suitable role, or he could leave at the end of the month or week and have farewell drinks with his colleagues, or he could leave immediately. His choice was to go immediately, so I arranged the necessary documents accordingly.

Imagine my surprise when the Austrian called me incandescently saying I should have got his buy-in to this before actioning it. Remember this was not a group activity, but a UK one where I was the MD with, I believed, the power of hire and fire, certainly there had been no arguments over my hirings. I explained how fundamental this was to my role. Did he really expect me to have the meeting with this guy and then leave to call Austria for approval. He was unrepentant and so I overnight discussed with Jane that I was going to resign in the morning – she agreed with alacrity.

This time I had managed just seven months as an employee. After this I didn’t want to lurk in the UK because I knew I was likely to get sucked back into the business. So we bought a larger villa in Javea, where I could turn my attention to writing.

With the grandkids in Paris

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