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Volume 21 No. 34
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London’s CSM seeks U.S. foothold

London agency CSM has its sights set on growing in North America and the recent acquisition of JHE Productions is one of its first major steps in creating a foothold in the U.S.

CSM, the sports marketing and entertainment division of Chime Communications, last week signed off on its purchase of JHE, an event production company based near Charlotte that has built its business around motorsports. Financial terms were not released.

Over its 28 years in the event production business, JHE has built an elite client base, ranging from NASCAR and IndyCar to broadcasters like Fox Sports and manufacturers like Ford. The business, named after founder Jay Howard, can be found everywhere from the prerace concert to the postrace fireworks display.

CSM Chief Executive Zak Brown called the JHE acquisition an important complementary piece to the motorsports marketing that CSM already does in NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One racing around the globe.

“This puts us in a place in motorsports where we were not,” Brown said, referring to event production. “They’ve got great clients, big broadcasters and a range of abilities that add to what we already do. I like that Jay is so strong in motor racing because it’s the biggest sport in our world and we’re continuing to invest in a sport that’s been very good to us.”

With JHE on board, CSM now has three outposts in the U.S. — the others being motorsports agency Just Marketing International in Indianapolis and Harlan Stone’s SJX Partners, a sales agency in New Canaan, Conn. That broadens CSM’s capabilities in the U.S. to include sponsor strategy and consulting, experiential marketing and property sales.

Brown hired Sophie Goldschmidt in December to oversee global sales out of CSM’s London office and they have just added Matt Grandis to head up North American sales. Grandis previously had been at Ascendent Sports Group and IMG. Grandis will report to both Goldschmidt and Stone, who is currently looking after North America growth and strategy.

“This is, ‘Here we come, North America,’” Brown said. “We’re looking to do more, to build.”

Howard said this was the first time he had entered deep acquisition talks in the company’s history. He had known Brown from racing circles for most of that time and became immediately intrigued when Brown began talking about acquiring JHE, a company of 86 employees with offices near Charlotte and Nashville.

Annual revenue of JHE could not be determined.

CSM’s high priority on U.S. growth makes JHE “the tip of the spear” in that strategy, Howard said. “It’s a great vote of confidence for our team that we can help a company like CSM.”

JHE will maintain its name and Howard will continue to run the business, which has four primary services: special events, corporate meetings, live shows and experiential marketing.

JHE most recently was set to produce Sunday’s Daytona 500 prerace concert by Florida Georgia Line for Fox Sports. Howard said it was anticipated to be one of the most-watched events JHE had ever put on.

Howard said the new Nashville office, which was established last year, is taking the company deeper into the corporate meeting space. For example, JHE just recently produced a retreat for Geodis, a French company that needed scenic displays, props, lighting and audio-visual expertise. Nissan, whose North American headquarters are based just outside of Nashville, also has become a corporate meeting client.

“If you look at a couple of areas where we’ve seen growth — corporate meetings and special events — almost everybody is spending money in that sector,” Howard said. “A lot of business that might go out of CSM now, whether it’s from a CSM agency or one of their clients, well, maybe that stays within CSM and goes with us.”

Globally, CSM now is a collection of 12 agencies, each with a unique specialty and each with its own identity. Brown said he is working with a brand specialist to determine whether those individual businesses will maintain their own company names, or if they’ll all undergo a rebranding to CSM.