Fairs Market USA

Louise Blouin in bid to buy the Armory Show?

Sources say the art publisher is in negotiations with Merchandise Mart Properties to acquire its art fair holdings

Louise Blouin

The Art Newspaper understands that the art publisher Louise Blouin is in negotiations with Merchandise Mart Properties (MMPI) to acquire its art fair holdings including the Armory Show, Art Platform Los Angeles and Volta. According to sources, MMPI president, Mark Falanga has been in New York this week for meetings with Blouin, who is the chief executive of Louise Blouin Media and the founding chairman of the Louise T. Blouin Foundation.

Rumours have been circulating within the trade for several months that MMPI wants to sell its art fair businesses. Art in America reported last month that a Connecticut company called Corporate Solutions is handling the offer. The Art Newspaper has seen an email from the firm about the sale of "a group of high-end art and home design events that attract 90,000 attendees, host 800 exhibiting companies and 2,000+ booths annually."

The email states that “sales and profits have grown significantly over the past several years and there are numerous opportunities to expand the brand… Sales are expected to increase 10% next year to well over $15m. EBITDA is expected to reach close to $3.5m in 2013.” The president of Corporate Solutions, Nick Curci, declined to comment.

Trade sources say it is likely that there will be tough negotiations over the fairs’ worth. “There are very few buyers in the world for art fairs,” says one investor in the art fair business.

There is another candidate waiting in the wings should this round of negotiations fail. “We have indicated our interest, and [MMPI] has parked us as a plan B,” says Sergey Skaterschikov, the founder of Next Editions Partners, a Vienna-based art media group that acquired the contemporary art Viennafair earlier this year. "They told us that there is another buyer who came into the process pretty early, and that they’ve designed the deal around them. There is an exclusivity period and they are trying to sell to that particular buyer. We are standing by.”

Skaterschikov says he has not discussed figures with MMPI so as not to breach the exclusivity period. “They didn't provide us with any information. We told them that if the deal doesn't come through for whatever reason then we would be interested. We would commit a solid long-term investment to [the Armory Show]—but we won't buy it at any price.”

A spokeswoman for Blouin says: "Louise Blouin Media is a privately-held company, and we do not comment on speculation in the media about the company's business activities." MMPI also declined to comment.

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