Earls Court’s possible closure soon after the 2012 Olympics has been met with sadness by exhibition organisers, who said the venue has hosted some of the country’s finest exhibitions for 70 years.
The Association of Event Organisers’ chief executive, Austen Hawkins, tells Exhibition News that Capital & Counties, the property company that bought the venue, did not have the industry’s best interests at heart.
“Clearly, CapCo is a property company and has bought Earls Court as a property play,” he says. “Supporting the UK’s exhibition industry is not their core focus. Organisers want as much space as possible, and Earls Court currently hosts some of the UK’s best-loved events.”
Capco, a subsidiary of FTSE 100 listed property company Liberty International, has acquired the remaining half stake in the site from a group including entrepreneurs David Coffer and Anthony Lyons, and is expected to honour its 2012 Olympic venue commitments, but it is believed that the halls will be wound up as an exhibition space soon after.
The fate of Olympia is also uncertain, although CapCo has confirmed it is in discussions about the possible regeneration of the venue.
Excel London’s conference and exhibitions MD David Pegler tells EN: “The latest news regarding Capital and Counties' intentions does not come as a surprise. Earlier stories have consistently indicated the desire to change the use of Earls Court and begin redevelopment as soon as possible.
Director of the Harrogate International Centre (HIC) Stuart Quin adds: “It is a real shame that a venue for major events for well over 70 years will be closing its doors to the events industry in a couple of years’ time.
“Earls Court has contributed much to the UK and worldwide profile of many major events,” he adds.