Freeman Buys Champion Exposition Services, George Fern, Immersa Marketing

June 20, 2011

Dallas-based Freeman bought all three companies owned by San Francisco-based Wheelhouse Solutions – Champion Exposition Services, George Fern Exposition & Services and Immersa Marketing – for an undisclosed sum. The transaction closes June 21.

Joe Popolo, CEO of Freeman, said the company always is looking to expand its business, and acquiring all three companies is not only a strategic fit, but also a cultural fit.

“Champion is known for great creative and technology … we believe we will also have the best team of employees,” he added. “We’re very excited about this.” 

Wheelhouse Solutions CEO Bob Priest-Heck said, “The merger was driven by mutual interest and alignment of goals. Freeman has always focused on strengthening its resources and capabilities to deliver customers the most creative face-to-face marketing solutions.”

He added, “Wheelhouse Solutions is a strong strategic fit for supporting Freeman’s strategy of building out the array of services and solutions it offers customers. Our cultures and approach to the industry are similar, which will allow us to better serve our customers.”

Popolo said Champion will be merged with Freeman, while George Fern and Immersa will still operate under their own brand names.

“We’ll leave Fern as Fern, and, with Immersa, we get a high-end, strategic marketing firm,” he added. “It’s a great fit for all.”

Freeman’s goal is to bring over as many of the Champion sales staff as possible so that the integration of the companies is seamless, particularly from a client point of view, Popolo said.

“We’re working hard to make sure every, single account team will be intact,” he added. “The customers really should not see any difference or the exhibitors. Frankly, we think they will see better service.”

For example, Popolo said, most of Champion’s products were shipped out of Boston, while Freeman has facilities nationwide, which likely will lead to lower costs for customers. Champion has 600 employees and offices in 25 cities, and Freeman has 4,000 employees and offices in 40 cities.

Priest-Heck will be executive vice president of Freeman and CEO of Immersa, reporting to Popolo.  Fern will operate separately, with Aaron Bludworth, COO of Fern, reporting directly to Albert Chew, COO of Freeman. 

Immersa also will operate separately, with Paolo Zeppa as senior vice president and general manager, reporting to Priest-Heck.

“This merger between Freeman and Wheelhouse Solutions brings together the experiential marketing industry’s premier companies:  Freeman, Champion, Fern and Immersa,” said Priest-Heck. “It combines our shared values of respect for our people, customer service, creativity and innovation to deliver the most trusted and creative experiences in face-to-face marketing.”

Popolo added the merger will allow them to “enhance the exhibitor service, improve customer service, provide more creative solutions and, overall, make event marketing a more productive experience.”

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