New boat show exec shares vision

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Under the new owners of Yachting Promotions Inc., not a lot is expected to change at the five boat shows the company produces – at least in the short-term.

Former YPI owner Kaye Pearson has been transferring most of the operational duties to his staff over the past few years, who will remain in their respective positions. The marine industry therefore will continue to work with the same people. The only exception may be the media, who are used to Pearson serving as the face of the shows.

The new “face” for YPI will be Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist, III, owner of Active Interest Media, Inc., a California-based publishing and event company, and YPI, which is now part of that firm.

Zimbalist has a passion for the marine industry that dates back to childhood. His grandfather, a Naval officer, gave him his nickname, calling him his “little skipper,” he shared during a recent interview with Boating Industry magazine.

But despite this love of boating, it’s unlikely he will have the same level of industry involvement as Pearson, whom he is replacing. Not only will he continue to be based in California, he owns a company with a presence in many industries, including food, log homes and martial arts.

“I won’t be devoting 100 percent to [the marine industry], but I will be devoting whatever time is necessary and appropriate,” explained Zimbalist. “I’ve probably spend at least half my time in Florida over the last several months. I like it down here.”

Pearson’s former right hand employees, Andrew Doole and Dane Graziano, are more likely to become the media’s main show contacts. Meanwhile, a new CFO will join the YPI staffers in Fort Lauderdale in a few weeks, Zimbalist added.

Boating magazines part of the picture

When asked about his interest in expanding the company’s presence in an industry showing a decline in unit sales, he explained Active Interest Media’s strategy.

“What we’re interested in are people’s passions and what they care about in their nonworking time and then giving them information about that and being a partner with them in that,” he said. “If you look at the media side of the marine industry, the most important segment of it in my opinion is the show business. It’s most important because it rings the cash register. Companies sell a substantial percentage of their annual sales at these YPI shows, either directly at the show or through the leads they get there. So, in a period of ups and downs, the last thing people are going to cut is their participation in the shows, especially since most of them are sold out. They are not nearly as susceptible to the ups and downs of a particular year or economy.”

Zimbalist, in fact, wants his company to expand its presence in the marine industry – most likely, through the launch and/or acquisition of boating magazines. He’s confident that a combination of shows and magazines can be successful even if industry growth is stagnant.

“If you look at the publishing side of the marine industry, the readers you’re trying to reach are the people who go to these shows,” he explained. “They’re the people out actively shopping for stuff, who are the most avid boaters. They’re coming to the shows, so it’s relatively easy to reach them with publishing. And the advertisers in a magazine are your exhibitors at the shows. And there are a lot more people exhibiting at the shows than are in the magazines. It’s a very compatible situation. But it is true that you don’t want to be the No. 7 or 8 publication in a market that has ups and downs. You want to be No. 1 or 2, and that would be our objective.”

This vision of driving the YPI shows to new heights through links to the boating magazines Active Interest Media aims to publish resonated with the Board of Directors of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the largest of the boat shows produced by YPI. Zimbalist made a presentation to the board last week.

“There is power in putting magazines together with events,” said Frank Herhold, MIASF executive director in a recent Boating Industry magazine interview. “It brings a new dimension to the marketing and PR of the Fort Lauderdale show.”

Herhold said it’s often healthy to have executives with entrepreneurial experience from outside the boating business entering the industry.

“Skip impressed me with his sincere desire to improve our show and to be in this business for the long term,” he commented. “As far as I’m concerned, we don’t see any negatives [in the sale].”

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