“NEW YORK, NY. (April 5, 2021) — Emerald Holding, Inc. today announced the acquisition of Sue Bryce Education, a member-based portrait photography education platform; and its affiliate, The Portrait Masters, an online photo education destination and conference created by Sue Bryce and Digital Product Studio.
Sue Bryce Education and The Portrait Masters offer photographers online and in-person learning and community, inspiring them to grow creatively and build successful businesses as photographers. As part of the business agreement, all four of the prior owners – Sue Bryce, Aaron Andersen, Craig Swanson and George Varanakis – will remain committed to the future growth and success of Sue Bryce Education and The Portrait Masters by partnering as consultants to operate and integrate the businesses with Emerald.”
A Little More About the Players
Today, Sue Bryce and her business partners George Varanakis, Aaron Andersen, and Craig Swanson announced the acquisition of Sue Bryce Education and The Portrait Masters by trade show giant Emerald (NYSE:EEX). Emerald is the largest trade show company in the US with a Market Cap of around $400M. They manage over 140 tradeshows and conferences like WPPI and Outdoor Retailer.
How Am I Qualified to Analyze This?
What Goes In To An Acquisition Announcement?
What This Means for Sue Bryce Education and The Portrait Masters
I have no insight to the financials here, but on first glance, this seems like it would be an acquisition with SBE and TPM acting as subsidiaries or separate legal entities. Basically, they’ll operate business-as-usual until some time in the future when it makes sense to start restructuring or rebranding, a common occurrence in large organizations.
As “consultants” I would expect that the team, especially Sue, drives the face of the brand with the upper execs at Emerald signing off on the direction. But with Emerald hiring them as consultants, the SBE team (I’m sure) has a bit of latitude in their contracts and guarantees of certain protections.
My guess is that for a 5 year contract to stick, there are some level of financial incentives with revenue or growth targets. Incentivizing management to keep things operating smoothly is beneficial for Emerald and allows the public to digest any future changes. No smart entrepreneur signs an acquisition deal without taking care of themselves. That’s the game.
Unless promoted into the upper ranks of Emerald (unlikely) I would see Varanakis, Swanson, and Andersen staying for about 2-3 years before leaving their positions – just enough time to stabilize the ship and let any stock terms vest, then gracefully exiting to start something new. They are serial entrepreneurs and it is in their DNA. It’s just how this works.
Perception is everything at the time of an acquisition announcement, and any level of disruption or hint at uncertainty can cause chaos. The announcement has certainly caused immediate ripples across the SBE community, with some calling it a “turd in a punchbowl” while others are unsurprisingly supportive.
My personal opinion is that there will be no short term effects, but anything past the 2 year mark is a guess at this point. I’ve seen too many product roadmaps change significantly after only a year.