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Freeman recently announced it has acquired Encore Productions, a full-service creative production and audio/visual equipment rental company based in Las Vegas. For more than 20 years, Encore has helped clients tell their stories in Las Vegas and around the world.

“We have a business plan to grow Freeman’s total revenue share in the audio/visual space,” said Ken Sanders, president of Freeman Audio Visual. “Encore is a very tough competitor. Frankly, a competitor that is difficult to displace, so joining forces with them seemed like the right thing to do. When we investigated further, we discovered their culture was very similar to ours.”

The purchase follows Freeman’s long-term corporate strategy of investing in growth opportunities in the face-to-face industry.

“Encore has demonstrated they are the technology and creative leader in their space,” said Joe Popolo, chief executive officer of Freeman. “With the addition of their relationships to Freeman’s resources, we are positioning the combined Freeman organization for growth in an important segment of the face-to-face industry.”

The results of the second annual Meeting Planners Intentions Survey, commissioned by the Professional Convention Management Association, American Express and the Y Partnership supports Freeman’s strategy for growth in the face-to-face meeting and convention industry.

The survey showed a 15 percent net increase in the number of off-site meetings that planners expect to book in 2010, and a 24 percent increase in 2011, versus the 2009 results. In addition, there is a 23 percent net increase in expected attendance at off-site meetings in 2010, and a 38 percent net increase in 2011, versus 2009 results.

Now united, the two companies look to capitalize on these expected increases in the industry.

“They are regarded as leaders in their field, and also have a reputation for outstanding customer service,” said Popolo. “Encore employees understand the value of partnering with customers, and we believe they will be a great fit for Freeman.”

The acquisition of Encore will also serve to increase Freeman’s market share in some areas that the company has been looking to expand.

“They are very strong in the corporate audio/visual market and that is an area we have looked to strengthen,” said Sanders. “Secondly, their hotel presence here in Las Vegas aids our desire to grow our hotel segment. These two things led to the acquisition being a perfect fit.”  

Encore has full-service satellite audio/visual rental offices in 14 of the top Las Vegas properties.

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Freeman will retain Encore’s name and brand identity, and Encore’s executive leadership team will remain in place to manage company operations and hotel customer relationships.

“Within the organization, Encore will be a part of Freeman’s audio/visual division,” said Sanders. “With the acquisition of Encore, Freeman’s audio/visual holdings now position the company as the second-highest ranking technology supplier in the industry, providing the most diverse service offering of any company in the space.”

The collective audio/visual resources of Freeman now represent over 30 percent of the company’s total revenue, and according to Sanders, adding Encore will allow Freeman to grow that percentage even more.

Phil Cooper, chief executive officer of Encore, agrees that combining the companies will benefit everyone involved. 

“Becoming a Freeman company is an opportunity for Encore to provide additional value to its customers,” said Cooper. “Freeman is viewed by its customers as the premier supplier in the face-to-face industry. As part of Freeman, Encore will leverage its own premium reputation and service offerings to expand Freeman’s reach into the hospitality marketplace in Las Vegas as well as in other markets. We are very excited to be part of a team with the industry experience and depth that Freeman has.”

Freeman’s strategy for acquisitions such as Encore has more to do with the human element than the bottom line, however.

“When we acquire a company like Encore, after one year the employees become employee-owners, so culture is huge,” said Sanders. “It obviously has to fit our business plan, but I don’t dare take an acquisition to the board if there is not a cultural fit. I know that is a non-starter for them.”

Longtime Encore customers also believe the Freeman and Encore combination will be a winning one.

“For many years, our partnership with Encore has been a tremendous benefit to our business and has added remarkable value to our customer’s events,” said Michael Massari, vice president of Las Vegas meetings for Harrah’s Entertainment. “We are excited about the future of the partnership.”

“Mandalay Bay Resort has enjoyed a sound relationship with Encore Productions and Freeman,” said Richard Harper, senior vice president of sales for Mandalay Bay.  “We look forward to seeing the benefits this new partnership may bring.”

Clients of both companies won’t have to wait long before they see the partnership in action.

Freeman was recently awarded the audio/visual contract for the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show, which attracts more than 150,000 attendees to Las Vegas each January with 2,500 exhibiting companies.

“The combined resources we’ve got in Las Vegas will be put to work with all business that we have,” said Sanders. “Our teams will definitely be working close together. Freeman audio/visual was prepared to supply all of what CES needs, but having Encore as part of the team doesn’t hurt.”



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