by Brendan M. Lynch | February 01, 2006

Timothy S Farrell

Timothy S. Farrell, president of AHMA

The ongoing battle of the American Hardware Manufacturers Association vs. Reed Exhibitions, which has been waged in courtrooms and on trade show floors across the country, now could be bound for a trial by jury.
    After having produced the National Hardware Show together for 27 years in Chicago, AHMA and Reed bitterly parted ways in March 2003, with both organizations vowing
to produce competing hardware events. Adding fuel to the fire, the Schaumburg, Ill.-based AHMA also filed a lawsuit alleging that Reed, the Norwalk, Conn.-based trade show producer, used various accounting tricks to cheat past NHS exhibitors and the trade association itself. 
    On Nov. 29, 2005, senior judge James B. Moran of the U.S. District Court in Chicago denied the request of Reed’s corporate parent, Reed Elsevier Inc., and co-defendant Freeman Decorating Co., NHS’ Dallas-based general contractor, for a summary judgment in the case. 
    Judge Moran noted, “At the heart of AHMA’s complaint are allegations that Reed made secret arrangements with Freeman, resulting in [AHMA] receiving less revenue than it was due, exhibitors paying higher prices for their exhibitor costs and attendance at the hardware show declining sharply.” 
    The decision to move the case forward pleased AHMA. Low turnout at the association’s solo hardware show, held at Chicago’s McCormick Place in 2004, proved disappointing to exhibitors. The event has since been discontinued. In contrast, Reed’s National Hardware Show has flourished and is growing. 
    “We interpret the judge’s ruling denying Reed and Freeman’s motion for summary judgment to mean he found merit to our claims based on evidence, including documents and testimony by affidavits,” said Timothy S. Farrell, president and CEO of AHMA. “We’ve instructed our lawyers to prepare for a jury trial. They have not discussed a
    But at Reed Exhibitions, which stands as the world’s largest trade show producer with a hefty portfolio of more than 470 events in 29 countries, reaction to the ruling understandably was less enthusiastic. 
    “This lawsuit is just going the way most lawsuits go,” said Rob Cappiello, industry VP with Reed. “No evidence has been presented. We are still 100 percent confident we will be totally vindicated. And this is having no impact on the National Hardware Show.”
    Indeed, at the NHS’s 2005 show in Las Vegas, exhibitors took up 681,191 square feet of floor space; for this year’s show in Orlando, Reed predicts that number will swell to 750,000 net square feet.
    “I’ve been reading about how the big shows are supposed to be dead, but this one isn’t,” said Cappiello. “This show is going great guns.”