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THE £60m venue improvement programme at Earls Court and Olympia will be speeded up, say the Morris family, who committed the venues to a future in exhibitions as they became the new owners with development capital group Candover on Friday.

The £183m purchase – slightly under the company’s estimated book value of £185m – brought to an end fears that the venues might be sold to property developers or investors who would want to move away from exhibitions. Although speculation is likely to continue until the new owners are seen to act on their proposals, their first move was to set out a clear strategy underlining their commitment to existing business.

Their strategic plans include:

• increasing investment in, and accelerating, the £60m venue improvement programme at both Earls Court and Olympia;

• focusing on venue management and event organising;

• increasing emphasis on sales, marketing and customer service;

• the sale of the event contracting and catering service companies, namely P&O Exhibition Services and Beeton Rumford, respectively.

Candover and the Morris family, who own City Industrial Ltd, whose interests include the Business Design Centre, have retained Jonathan Goold and Suzanne King as P&O Events managing director and group finance director, respectively. Indeed, Candover has a stated policy of working with incumbent management or a buy-in team in all deals.

Hugh Scrimgeour, Earls Court and Olympia chairman and managing director for the past six years, will remain with P&O. He will be replaced by Andrew Morris as group chief executive. Other new directors to the Earls Court/Olympia board include Nigel Nathan as commercial director responsible for venue hire; Simon Leefe of Candover, who specialises in IT, consumer and media deals, and Jack Morris join as non-executive directors.

Details of how the existing shows programme, including the art and antiques fairs, will be affected are not clear, but Andrew Morris said: “Earls Court and Olympia are leading international brands and I am deeply committed to building on the success and reputation of London’s most exciting events venues.

“The refocusing of the business and refurbishment of the buildings is designed to satisfy the demands and high expectations of our customers in future.”

Well-known exhibition and concert promoter Raymond Gubbay, who has himself organised antiques fairs, told the Antiques Trade Gazette: “I think of all the people quoted as interested, these buyers are the best solution. They have a track record in the field of exhibition promotion.”