Maritz CEO David Peckinpaugh Talks CDS Acquisition and More

July 10, 2024

Following its July 1 acquisition of event registration, onsite and lead services provider Convention Data Services (CDS) from global events company Freeman, Maritz is now poised to be the dominant player in registration, housing, lead retrieval, onsite support, and data services for some of the largest U.S. trade shows and business events.

Both Maritz, a meetings and event management company, and Freeman are privately owned companies, and terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 

While Maritz officials would not disclose its client portfolio by press time, CDS boasts a who’s who of major trade shows on its client roster. 

In April, CDS announced that it had formed a partnership with Informa Markets (TSNN is owned by Informa) to become the show organizer’s strategic full-service registration and lead management partner of its North American event portfolio, which boasts a roster of market-leading B2B events. These include World of Concrete; SupplySide Network East; The International Surface Event (TISE); the Water and Wastewater Equipment, Treatment and Transport (WWETT) Show; IME West; DesignCon; and Natural Products Expo West from New Hope Network, just to name a few.

Maritz President and CEO David Peckinpaugh expressed enthusiasm about the CDS acquisition, which not only adds a large number of clients and events to its existing portfolio but also brings together two companies with an extensive history in the events industry.

“By adding this new portfolio of clients from CDS, Maritz significantly increases our share of the market and positions us well for the future,” Peckinpaugh explained. “This acquisition exemplifies our commitment to supporting association and trade show events through this era of shifting attendee expectations and behaviors.”

Peckinpaugh added that Maritz will now integrate CDS’ more than 200 employees, a process that could take up to 36 months, elevating its employee headcount to approximately 2,700 across all of its divisions. 

“Not all of that is on the event side––we’re a big company, we’ve got automotive solutions and engagement solutions, as well as business event solutions, but business events are the largest of the three market-facing parts of our business,” he said. 

Maritz has strengthened its position in the events industry over the last 15 years, beginning with its acquisition of meeting and event services company Experient in 2012.

With CDS on board, Maritz will be bolstered with expanded talent and services to help further accelerate innovation and bring new products to market. Meanwhile, Maritz clients will not see any immediate changes as the company begins the integration process, according to Maritz officials.

A Maritz-run registration area at Elevate, a brand event recently held in Vancouver, Canada

“The industry will continue to receive the outstanding experience they’ve come to expect from both organizations,” said Darren Phalen, president of CDS. “We’re excited to share more about how our combined expertise will benefit association and trade show organizers. With so much talent in one organization, we will lead industry innovation to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing the events industry.”

Freeman acquired CDS in the fall of 2019, with the goal of expanding Freeman’s registration data collection abilities. So why divest from CDS and why now? Freeman officials did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but in a statement, Paul Fletcher, Freeman’s COO, Audio Visual & Event Technology, expressed confidence that Maritz is the right home for CDS and its talented team. 

“Freeman remains focused on delivering unforgettable experiences to ensure we are best positioned to drive meaningful and impactful events for organizers, exhibitors and attendees,” he said. 

TSNN had a chance to catch up with Peckinpaugh to learn more about the acquisition, what this means for Maritz clients, and for the trade show industry at large. 

What motivated Maritz to acquire CDS from Freeman and how long has this deal been in the works?

The conversations started after the first of the year, but they really heated up in February, March, or April, when Freeman initiated the sales process. We’ve had a long running relationship with Freeman for decades [and] we’re great partners who’ve worked together very closely. So the timeline and sales process was initiated by Freeman. But as soon as we were made aware, we jumped in [with] both feet and hands, and everything else in showing our interest in [buying CDS] because it’s such a logical combination and fit for us and for them. 

[CDS is] going from a company with family ownership at Freeman and now family ownership at Maritz, and that has a really good continuity to it. I think Freeman saw the cultural fit, and that we were a great landing place for CDS clients and their people, so it was one of those excellent win-win-win scenarios that we’re all excited about.

How does the addition of CDS align with Maritz’s overall strategic goals?

The business event side of Maritz started in 1958, so we’ve been around for 66 years. We acquired Experient back in 2012, and prior to that [Maritz] was almost 100% corporate and there was one association client. I had spent eight years at Experient, so when I joined Maritz it was a company I knew, and we were really excited about the addition of the association and trade show and live events space, and [since then have] really done a great job of organically growing that business. But then you get a unique opportunity like CDS that comes along, and you’ve got to take advantage of it. We did and we’re really thrilled about it.

What’s the strategy for top management and staff at CDS?

Everyone is coming on board. They’ve got a full portfolio of clients and events, and their teams are stretched, and our teams are full. It’s not like we have all this excess capacity, so everyone is on board, leadership is on board, and it’s business as usual. As we told the teams last week, how you were operating two weeks ago and last week is how you’re operating next week and moving forward. We have an integration plan, but that’s going to take time. We’re very patient as an acquirer and we’ve got a probably a three-year window that is realistic as we work through all the details. Some of the back-office stuff will happen pretty quickly, but anything that affects a client is absolutely being handled with kid gloves and being done very collaboratively with our clients so that we don’t do anything to disrupt the great relationships and service that they’re already enjoying.

In what ways do you expect this acquisition to enhance Maritz’s service offerings and innovation capabilities for its association and trade show clients?

If you look at two industry leaders and when you have the opportunity to bring those together, the number one thing that I’m excited about is talent—[CDS has] got great talent all across the organization. So that infusion of new talent, new eyes, new energy is going to be great for Maritz. As we look at the pluses of both and how we combine those – it’s the old 1 + 1 is greater than 3, you hope. That’s the idea here, that we can bring the best of both to play, and it’ll only enhance the offerings that we have for our clients, enhance the service, the solutions technology, the list goes on and on. And we’ll drive innovation, as we’ve got a significant portfolio now of clients, and our access to data and trends within that portfolio is second to none, so we’re excited about what that means. 

CDS, and with Freeman, has always put out a trends report, and we do the same thing—we just did our Registration Insights Report about 6-8 weeks ago, so now think about that opportunity. And we’re adding housing capabilities now to CDS, which they didn’t have previously, so you’ve got that full service robust solution for the association and trade show market in addition to the event management side that we’ve had forever. It’s pretty exciting and I think our clients are going to be very excited about it.

Anything else we should know about this deal?

Everyone gets really excited about acquisitions and what does this mean and the impact, but really it has no impact to our Maritz clients other than…it shows a further investment into this space, a commitment to association and trade shows. For CDS clients, it’s business as usual and everyone just [needs to] let the process take its normal course, and it will do that.

Our clients are No. 1, and our people are right at the front. We don’t want to do anything that interferes or disrupts any of those relationships, and I think that’s the number one message, that [this is a] really a powerful combination of two industry leaders coming together to continue to lead the industry with product solutions, innovation, data, data insights, all those benefits that people would expect from us.


Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on LinkedIn!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
One of the most iconic names on the Las Vegas Strip just got an upgrade. Mandalay Bay has everything that your business needs from a refreshed convention space designed to inspire productivity and creativity, to an impressive selection of world-class restaurants and amenities. If you're looking for a venue that's both inviting and innovative, you have to be here. New Wave Experiences Mandalay Bay continues to invest in a new wave of enhancements both in the convention space and within the resort as a whole. New restaurant openings including Orla by Michael Mina, drawing inspiration from the award-winning chef’s childhood in Egypt and with flavors and décor inspired by the spices found in markets common to coastal Mediterranean towns, as well as Caramá by Wolfgang Puck, bringing the essence of Italy and spirit of Wolfgang into one concept, are recent additions. The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas also experienced a recent remodel of all 424 rooms. Swingers, a high-end, adults-only golf and entertainment concept will debut in Fall 2024. Enhanced Technology Creating a truly effective conference venue requires careful thought into what a business needs: the right technology, capacity, and inspiration to bring ideas to the next level. As part of the resort’s refresh, Mandalay Bay implemented state-of-the-art technology upgrades, installing cutting-edge Cat6A Ethernet cabling throughout the convention center. This advancement doubles the frequency of data transmission, enabling lightning-fast speeds up to 9400% faster. The convention center now boasts 11 dynamic digital walls, spanning up to 24' x 13', strategically positioned for brand placements, sponsorships and targeted event messaging. Additionally, attendees can benefit from 20 double-sided 55" mobile flexible display units, facilitating effortless navigation to meeting rooms and events. RFID locks were installed on all meeting room doors, and over 200 motion detection cameras have been placed throughout the space. Refreshing New Design & Fine Art The newly remodeled convention space provides a bright and vibrant atmosphere that complements Mandalay Bay's tropical-inspired brand. Featuring white-washed walls and ceilings adorned with bold floral patterns in cerulean and coral tones, the space is complemented by warm walnut accent walls. In addition to the redesign of all pre-function spaces, meeting rooms and ballrooms, Mandalay Bay's 1 million square feet of exhibit space has undergone a rejuvenation, including new paint, covered pillars and relocated strobe lights. Sustainable Spectacles Mandalay Bay is committed to Focused on What Matters and creating more responsible meetings. Refillable water stations all available around the resort, cutting unnecessary plastic usage from single-use bottles. The Mandalay Bay campus’ recent upgrades represent a bold step forward in redefining the Las Vegas experience. With a focus on innovation, sustainability, and unparalleled service, Mandalay Bay sets a new standard for excellence in business hospitality. Whether you're seeking cutting-edge conference facilities, world-class dining options, or simply a luxurious retreat, an unparalleled meeting experience awaits.