Blenheim founder in pounds 65m Russian trade show deal

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The Independent Online
LAWRIE LEWIS, the Monte Carlo-based millionaire who founded Blenheim Exhibitions, made his return to familiar territory yesterday with a pounds 65m deal to buy the largest organiser of trade shows in Russia.

Cementone, the shell company in which Mr Lewis acquired a 29.9 per cent stake last April, is buying ITE, which organises exhibitions in Russia and the CIS. Mr Lewis will move from being chairman to chief executive. The name of the company will be changed to ITE Group and Mr Lewis will spend much of his time in the Eastern bloc on an acquisition spree. He aims to take Cementone to a market value of pounds 300m within two years.

"I've had a look at football clubs and adult television channels but I'm returning to what I know best," he said yesterday. "I'm going to go out there and Hoover up companies that meet our criteria."

Mr Lewis was briefly involved in two different consortia that were bidding for Nottingham Forest last year. One group was led by Grant Bovey, the video entrepreneur now romantically linked with Anthea Turner, the television personality.

Mr Lewis added: "ITE's organic growth has been very impressive. I expect to be able to add real value by applying my own experience within the industry to complement ITE's continuing organic growth." ITE recorded profits of pounds 6.8m on sales of pounds 27m last year.

Cementone was previously a chemicals company but sold all its trading operations last year to become a shell. The ITE deal will be funded by a share placing to raise pounds 38m. The issue price will be 42.75p per ordinary share, valuing the enlarged group at pounds 72m. Mr Lewis will invest pounds 4m of his own cash in the business.

Cementone shares have been suspended since the sale of its operating subsidiaries last July.