Jim Chabin, who was replaced as President/CEO of industry marketing organization Promax/BDA on Friday, is due to give a presentation to the group’s board on Monday in which he would flesh out a proposal to take over the management of Promax activities on a contractual basis.
In return, he would provide a portion of the proceeds to the organization, the way some other trade shows run their conferences.
On Friday, Promax/BDA announced that vice chair Lee Hunt has been named interim managing director. It followed the ouster last month of President/CEO Jim Chabin and a search for outside auditors to examine the non-profit organization’s books.
It also came as pressure mounted to save the upcoming Promax/BDA conference in New York June 12-14. Without the appointment of an executive to oversee day-to-day operations, it would have been nearly impossible to stage the confab, where most of its annual revenue originates. Critical decisions involving the lineup of speakers, advertising, promotion and other issues must be made now.
Speculation about Chabin’s abrupt departure centered on his extensive worldwide travel, which is said to have encompassed 200 days last year, with short stops in numerous overseas locales and at Promax/BDA-sponsored trade shows.
Chabin had sought to increase international attendance for the June conference, a sector that currently accounts for 20% of Promax/BDA’s revenues.
Those familiar with the situation say that when Chabin arrived back at Promax/BDA from a three-year tour leading the TV Academy in 2003, revenues had dropped into the nearly insolvent range of $4 million. That was down substantially from the $7.6 million it had snared at the end of his first tour of duty.
Last year, however, Promax/BDA revenues had soared to $9 million, but there was a year-end shortfall of $200,000. Red ink is fairly common in late December, since sponsor deals and early registrations for the summer show don’t come until January.
According to sources, Chabin received an email from Promax/BDA Chairman Mike Benson, marketing head for ABC, around Jan. 1 informing him that he should take a leave of absence and not show up at Promax/BDA’s West Hollywood, Calif., offices until matters were resolved.
But without Chabin in the mix, there was little or no incoming revenue in January and Promax/BDA was unable to allocate any money toward 2006 to make up the deficit, or even secure a profit for the year.
The executive committee called for an outside auditor to examine the informal year-end financial statement, which would have been impossible to complete by its last board meeting on Jan. 10, and raised to the specter of financial improprieties.
The group’s accountants had previously presented the finances at the October 2006 board meeting and, according to individuals familiar with the session, no one raised any objections.
Additionally, a separate accounting firm that handles Promax/BDA’s taxes is said to have never had concerns with the informal financial statements.
Reached Friday, Chabin, who declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding his departure, called Hunt’s appointment a "perfectly above-board, decent and honest thing to do" on the part of the Promax/BDA board. "He understands the market, so put the guy in place and see what he can do."
In fact, he notes that Hunt's perspective on television marketing and promotion often results in provocative seminars that he hosts at Promax sessions.
"If that's the way they want to go, that's fine," Chabin says. "I've had a good run.”
Hunt will take over administration of both organizations, which also oversees the M16 video game marketer's conference in May. He handled more than 100 TV network branding/design jobs while with his own company, Lee Hunt Associates, which he sold to Razorfish in the 1990's. Hunt’s resume also includes MTV, VH1, Lifetime and TNT.
Chabin ran Promax 1992-99, and then was brought back in 2003. The executive still has 18 months remaining on his most recent five-year contract. The board could opt to settle with him Monday.
When Promax/BDA announced the contract renewal of Chabin, Benson had credited him with revitalizing the organization by expanding “the global reach of the organization.”
Chabin had added conferences and award programs in Arabia, China and India, in addition to invigorating annual events already held for members in North America, Europe, Latin America and the UK, according to an earlier statement.
He also led efforts to expand Promax/BDA into Africa and the Russian broadcast market, while introducing international one-day promotion and marketing seminars in many key Asian territories, including Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong and Jakarta.
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