Comdex Producer Faces Competition

Jupitermedia launches trade show aimed at taking down Key 3Media Group, which just filed for Chapter 11.

Spending on information technology may be down, but competition to lure exhibitors and IT managers to IT trade shows is way up.

Jupitermedia Corp. and renowned conventioneer Sheldon Adelson each have plans to launch new trade shows that will run concurrently with Key 3Media Group Inc.s Comdex Fall 2003 in Las Vegas next November. The news comes to light as floundering Key 3Media files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

JupiterMedia Tuesday announced the Computer Digital Expo Fall 2003 conference and trade show, which will run Nov. 17-21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The New York-based company made it clear that it was positioning the new show as an alternative to Comdex. It went so far as to boast on its Web site that Computer Digital Expo is "the next generation technology event replacing Comdex."

"Key 3Media … has filed under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code. In view of the uncertainty that this creates for Comdex, we are launching Computer Digital Expo to meet the industries needs for such an event," said Jupitermedia Chairman and CEO Alan Meckler, in a statement.

Jupitermedia plans to run a spring edition of Computer Digital Expo in Boston, officials said.

Separately, Adelson, who created Comdex more than 20 years ago and sold it to Softbank Corp. in 1995, plans to launch his own fall trade show, as well, according to a report on Adelsons show will be staged at Las Vegas Sands Expo and Convention Center; Adelson is chairman of Las Vegas Sands Inc.

Comdex was a hot property in the 1990s. In 1997 it occupied more than 1.3 million square feet of show floors at the Las Vegas Convention Center and elsewhere in the city. It attracted some 211,000 attendees and nearly 2,500 exhibitors. But competition from more targeted shows and slower spending on IT has taken its toll on Americas largest trade show. Comdex Fall 2002 tallied about 125,000 visitors and 1,000 exhibitors to its 500,000 square feet of show floor.

Key 3Media, which organizes several major information technology trade shows including Comdex, on Monday announced it had entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Thomas Weisel Capital Partners, a principle creditor, will fund Key 3Medias operations and take possession of 99 percent of the company in exchange for cutting its debt. Unsecured creditors and bondholders will own the remaining 1 percent of the company.

Key 3Medias current managers, who are staying with the company, said that Comdex and its other trade shows will take place as scheduled. Among the two dozen events that the company stages are NetWorld+Interop, JavaOne, Seybold Seminars and this months Intel Developer Forum.

Under terms of the filing, which was pre-negotiated with its major creditors, Los Angeles-based Key 3Media will reduce its debt from $372 million to $50 million and eliminate its public stock. Annual interest payments were cut from $38 million to $3.4 million, officials said.

Thomas Weisel Capital Partners is giving Key 3Media $30 million in debtor-in-possession financing. It will fund the company during the reorganization process.

Attendance at trade shows has fallen dramatically as corporate spending on IT has fallen in the last few years. In its most recent quarterly financial statement, announced last November, Key 3Media reported a net loss of $315.7 million for its fiscal third quarter, compared to a net loss of $3.7 million for the same period in the preceding year. Revenues for the quarter were $38.4 million, compared to $51.5 million last year.

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