Szondy organises CIE buyout as Euromoney exits Australasia

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The Centre for Investor Education, the oldest and biggest conference organiser for fiduciary investors in Australia and New Zealand, is once again in Australian hands following the planned exit of Euromoney, the UK-listed company best known for its Institutional Investor publications.

Gabriel Szondy, CIE’s chair and long-time associate of the firm’s founder, Melda Donnelly, has helped organise a management buyout. He and other staff will become shareholders when Euromoney formalises the sale of its shares. Sponsors and regular attendees are very happy about the development, Szondy says.

In an interesting twist, Peter Horn, the chief executive of CIE for the past five-and-a-half years, is to take on a diplomatic role for the Australian Government. To be based in Frankfurt, Horn will become the senior trade commissioner and head of Europe for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He plans to relocate to Europe with his family early in the new year, he said last week.

Melda, an entrepreneur in the superannuation and investment sectors, who has held numerous senior management and directorial positions in her career, launched the business in the mid-1990s, with a now-popular conference business strategy whereby sponsors – usually fund managers – ‘pay to play’. She, and CIE’s subsequent owners, strictly control what the sponsors present to an audience of senior super fund executives and trustees. Other producers, such as Teik Heng Tan’s i3 (Investment Innovation Institute) and Conexus Financial, have followed the structure. Teik was a former regional head of Institutional Investor, in Hong Kong, and a former conference producer at Conexus, too, in Sydney.

Even though CIE has grown significantly in the past few years, with Horn leading an expansion into Korea, Japan and China, the ownership has not been without its challenges for Euromoney.

After paying A$14.4 million for its initial 75 per cent holding in CIE in April 2013, Euromoney later parted company with the then owners and managers, Jamie Nemtsas and Erling Sorensen, prior to the scheduled final payment in 2015. Nemtsas and Sorensen, two experienced financial advisors and wealth managers, acquired the business from Melda in 2010 and subsequently negotiated what the industry at the time considered a very healthy price paid by Euromoney. The matter ended up with their lawyers.

Szondy, who is also a director of Frontier Advisors, said last week that the new ownership structure would give CIE more flexibility, while it retained the same staff and processes. He said the firm might reduce its conference roster to eight major events and three minor ones per year, including the well-regarded international conference which will next take place in Barcelona.

Horn said: “The past five-and-a-half years I have been the CEO of Institutional Investor for Asia Pacific, which includes CIE in Australia, has been an amazing role. The business in Asia has grown five times over that period and I have led successful expansion in Japan, Korea and mainland China. It has been a highlight of my career and a privilege to be a custodian of the CIE legacy over this time.  I believe deeply in the humble role we play in our industry and that the need for investor education is more critical than ever…”

– G.B.

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