LIVE was doing well but News International Exhibitions failed to develop another event that was as fruitful, so unbeknown to me NI decided to sell it.
I caught a hint of something while talking to the legal department, but I innocently used the term ‘play the white man’ and was slapped down for this being a racist comment. The guy said that no action would be taken this time, but I was given a verbal warning. However from other things he had said I got the hint that something was afoot.
I was called to see Robb and was told that a deal had been done and that the buyers were enthusiastic that they were getting me too. It was Blenheim again, where one of my PropBus sales guys was by now the event director for a number of events, another I had known while there was now its Managing Director.
I had not been involved in the negotiations and soon realised Blenheim’s error, there was no ongoing contractual commitment with the NI newspapers or Sky. On joining them I was therefore relieved when they appointed someone else to take LIVE forward. Sadly, the guy who became event director was a computer magazine publisher with no experience of shows, he had probably visited several but never organised one. He made the unilateral decision to shift LIVE’s emphasis towards computing rather than its more generic consumer electronics.
I pointed out that he should not jump to that conclusion and instead let exhibitors fight out whether it would be black-boxes or computers that moved the market forward. But he persevered, and I tried not to interfere. Sharp called me to say he had turned up with a lengthy PowerPoint presentation and spent the whole meeting reading it out, never once looking them in the eye or picking up on their increasingly frustrated body language.
The 1996 event was half the size of 1995 in terms of both stand space and visitor count and the show died thereafter. The guy left and went back to publishing. Sad, because I had always assumed I would be able to dandle my grandkids and say that I had launched LIVE!