Fredric D. Rosen, the Los Angeles entrepreneur who built Ticketmaster into the world's largest computerized ticketing service, today will be named chairman of a new company that will take over the Comdex computer trade show--the largest convention of the personal computer industry.
Rosen, who left Ticketmaster in 1998 after Barry Diller's USA Networks bought a controlling share of the company, said the new venture will focus on computer conventions and conferences, but eventually will branch out into other types of trade shows and events.
The company, which has yet to be named, is being spun out of Ziff-Davis Inc., which is majority-owned by Softbank Corp., a Japanese Internet company.
Softbank will take a controlling share of the new company, whose stock will eventually be publicly traded.
"These shows represent the meeting places of the new economy," Rosen said. "The goal here is to significantly expand the company outside of the [information technology] space."
Besides Comdex, the new company will handle Networld+Interop, a trade show for networking companies; Seybold Seminars, a Web publishing convention; and other events.
Spinning off a separate company to handle events and trade shows is part of a broader Softbank strategy to reinvent itself as a pure Internet holding company.
Softbank was started in 1981 as a distributor of software in Japan, but began to expand in the 1990s, buying ZD Inc., the publisher of PC Magazine, and Comdex, among other companies.
Softbank is a major stockholder of Web portal Yahoo--owning about 25% of the company's stock worth more than $20 billion--and last year decided to refocus on becoming a company that invests in other Internet ventures.
Rosen, a tough executive who spent two years in retirement "hanging out and playing," faces a challenge in revitalizing Comdex, which has begun losing attendance.
Attendance at last year's fall convention, which drew about 200,000 people to Las Vegas, was down 20,000 people from the year before. In many ways, the event, which generates about $90 million in revenue each year, has become too large and cumbersome.
Rosen, who attended his first Comdex just last year, said that the key to the future will be in leveraging the convention's brand name and trying to extend the show through the use of the Web from a one-week event into a daily dose of technology news.
"These brands, along with the existing client relationships, are very unique and will create new sponsorships and e-commerce opportunities, as well as the ability to significantly increase our presence on the Web as we redefine our Internet strategy," Rosen said.
Rosen was one of the earliest businesspeople to see the potential of the Web, launching Ticketmaster's online service in 1996.
Rosen joined Ticketmaster in 1982, taking a struggling company with 25 employees and a negative net worth and turning it into a company with current ticket sales of $2.5 billion.