Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The deal expected to go through in the next couple of months, will see St James retain a 25 per cent stake in Clarion. Clarion will continue as organisers of the three main antiques fairs at Olympia – seen as among the exhibition centre’s most important assets – and the shows have been guaranteed for at least 20 years.

Dealers standing at the main Olympia events will not be disrupted by the changes, said Clarion’s antique fairs director Dan Gorton, who made the announcement at the Summer Olympia fair lunch last week.

The buyout, being led by Clarion managing director Simon Kimble, would free the fair organisers further from the constraints of their close relationship with the halls, allowing them to concentrate on developing their own events portfolio on an international basis. Indeed, they would effectively become ECO’s most important client.

Rebranded five years ago as a result of the Morris family’s purchase of Earls Court and Olympia from the P&O group, the former P&O Events firm have established a strong brand which the management hope will open doors for them across the world. Their portfolio of events stretches across the business-to-business, retail and consumer sectors, as well as art and antiques. They are already exploring opportunities in Dublin and across Europe.

Clarion’s board includes deputy managing director Kent Allen, formerly of dmg World Media; development director James Brooks Ward, who has been with the company for some years and was previously a fairs director; Mark Saunders, also a long-standing fairs director at Clarion and now managing director of Clarion Scotland, the events organising arm at The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow; and finance director Angela McNaught.

Although it is not yet clear who else is involved in the buyout, senior managers such as the fairs directors could well take a personal stake in the business.

The move fits in with St James’s strengths: as a small organisation with extensive property assets, they are not experienced in event organising; the deal will give more operational freedom to Clarion, allowing them to realise their growth potential; it would also increase the personal commitment of the Clarion team and let St James take a back seat on the events side while retaining a quarter share in any business growth.