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Convention Data Services President Talks Next Steps After Maritz Acquisition


Skift Take

The intricacies of absorbing a multi-million registration company is the focus of an upcoming internal Maritz tech summit.

Maritz is hosting an internal technology summit at its headquarters in St. Louis this week following its acquisition Monday of Convention Data Services from Freeman.

Leaders from Maritz and CDS, once competitors, are joining together for a deep dive into both company’s technology offerings.  

CDS has technologies it has developed over its 38-year history that it hopes will advance with the Maritz acquisition. “We want to modernize our entire platform,” said Darren Phalen, president of CDS. “Registration is all web development and web development never stops. That part of the business is software, and if you don’t iterate in software then you die.”

“I was asking for investment for CDS. They [Freeman] really didn’t want to be investing that much there when they had to do so much elsewhere,” Phalen told Skift Meetings.

He adds that conversations about the sale started last September. “To their credit, they said, let’s find CDS a better situation where somebody wants to invest in the future where they can grow.”

From Competitor to Ally

The idea of joining forces with a competitor was “scary” at first. The fact that Maritz understands the intricacies of the business events industry is reassuring, said Phalen. “I’ve personally been through multiple acquisitions of companies and the idea of going to a private equity or something outside your industry is even more terrifying,” he said.

This week’s internal tech summit will focus on both company’s tech tools and how they will work together. “We will discuss what systems we have that work well. What systems Maritz has that work well. We will then put our customer hat on to determine what will be best for them,” said Phalen.

Integrating the two companies will not be immediate. “We’re not tearing the logo off our shirts today. It’ll be phased in as gently as possible,” said Phalen.

AI will be a focus of the tech summit. “AI is obviously top of mind for any roadmap,” he said. From recommending what events an attendee should consider during a conference to what areas of an expo floor they should visit, AI will help, said Phalen.

Convention Data Services Customers to Gather in Cape Cod

In addition, in two weeks, CDS will be hosting its annual client advisory group event in Cape Cod, where the company was started. “Seventeen of our customers will share with us what they need and what AI should be doing. There may be ideas we may not even be thinking of. It’s that combined customer voice,” he said.

Phalen has been with Freeman, a family-owned company, for 15 years and is happy to be joining Maritz, another family-owned company. He joined CDS in August of 2021. Before that, he was with event production company Encore, a Freeman provider. Then it was over to PSAV (now Encore), then back to Freeman, where he joined its digital department. 

“The best thing about a family ownership is that they own it because they love it, not just because it’s an asset,” said Phalen.