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Exclusive: AX 2010 Lost $1.2 Million; IDG to Boost Involvement

posted on 2012-02-03 21:30 EST
Anime Expo '11 was profitable, but SPJA stays in debt; Takayuki Karahashi appointed SPJA Chair

ANN has learned that the Anime Expo convention lost about US$1.2 million in 2010. The event ran during the extended July 1-4 holiday weekend in 2010 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The recently discovered loss has left the convention's parent organization, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), with a current outstanding debt of about US$700,000, according to reports. The debt is owed to the convention services company IDG World Expo, as well as to various other vendors. Anime Expo is reporting a profit of roughly US$100,000 for the 2011 event, partially offsetting the previous year's loss.

Anime Expo's New Agreement with IDG

IDG and Anime Expo have signed a new contract covering the 2012 event, which is scheduled to run between June 29 and July 2. As part of the agreement, IDG will not raise its rates, and will work with other vendors to ensure the debt is paid. The convention plans to have all outstanding debt paid off within the next two years. Confidential sources reported that the SPJA has agreed to a monthly budget ceiling, but did not require cutting any current expenses.

Under the new agreement, IDG will oversee more of the convention operations, including management of the exhibit hall, handling of registration, sale of sponsorships, and event marketing. In particular, IDG hopes to diminish registration wait times — from the wait of over two hours in 2011 to between 45 and 80 minutes.

IDG has assisted in bringing in larger sponsors in previous years, and the company plans to increase its oversight for the 2012 convention. Additionally, the company plans to better utilize the Exhibit Hall, after previously assisting AX in making changes that saw a favorable response with vendors. (The 2011 event saw a four-fold jump from 2010 in vendors who renewed their booths within 30 days after the con.)

However, IDG will only have a consulting role in the convention's finances, and no input on programming and guest relations. The SPJA will continue to manage those areas. The new agreement was signed after the SPJA had finalized the budget for this year's event, so while IDG's involvement is expected to result in reduced costs, the SPJA will decide how to use the additional funds.

As part of IDG's increased presence, the company will bring in several staff members to oversee its duties. Individuals close to the SPJA said they expect layoffs at the nonprofit organization, but when asked for a comment, SPJA CEO Marc Perez said, "Hopefully we can avoid getting rid of anybody." Perez declined to comment on any budget cuts.

Takayuki Karahashi Elected SPJA Board Chair

On January 19, following the discovery of the debt and the subsequent deal with IDG, the SPJA elected Takayuki Karahashi to the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors. Karahashi is a translator and longtime staffer of AX and many other conventions. From his new position, Karahashi will have executive oversight over all SPJA duties.

Background

Anime Expo is the largest anime convention in North America. In September 2009, former Universal executive Michael Lattanzio was appointed CEO of the SPJA, and disagreements with senior management caused the resignation of several staff members in January 2010. Lattanzio stepped down in September 2010, and he was replaced by current CEO Marc Perez. Perez became a full-time employee of the SPJA, and stepped down from the Board of Directors, in August 2011.

AX celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011, and attendance set a record at 47,000.


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