Interview / "If the Cannes Yachting Festival isn't held in 2017, we lose a lot more than money."

Fabien Métayer, Chairman of the Management Board of Nautic Festival SA

Fabien Métayer, Chairman of the Management Board of Nautic Festival SA, reviews the ongoing disputes between the Fédération des Industries Nautiques and Reed Expositions and discusses the future of French boat shows.

Since the announcement of the takeover of the Nautic by the Fédération des Industries Nautiques last December, we have heard various reports on the ongoing dispute with Reed Expositions. Its president explained to us his point of view Can you introduce us to the NIF one?

The process dates back well before October 21, 2016, when the end of the contract on the Nautic was made public. The contracts between the Fédération des Industries Nautiques and Reed Expositions have from the outset been based on a legal principle of"intuitu personae". The Fédération des Industries Nautiques had entrusted the keys of its Paris and Cannes boat shows to Reed Expositions, through a relationship of trust with Jean-Daniel Compain. During 2016, NIF expressed written concerns about Mr. Compain's role, with whom contacts had disappeared. After a second reminder, Reed Expositions indicates that it is still part of the workforce. His departure was finally announced a few weeks later. From then on, it was necessary to find a new person who embodies this relationship between FIN and Reed Expositions.

After proposals made by both parties, no agreement is reached. FIN then decides, on 21 October 2016, to terminate the contract with Reed Expositions. It requests, in accordance with labour law, the transfer of the organisational staff of the Nautic and Cannes Yachting Festival. It also initiated proceedings before the regional court to annul a clause granting Reed Expositions the organisation of the Cannes Yachting Festival for 20 years after the end of the contract.

It is Mr. Compain's progressive separation, without notifying FIN, that is the problem. FIN had not developed a 1 or 2 year plan to terminate the relationship with Reed Expositions.

Since then, Reed Expositions has filed an appeal before the judge to keep the organization of the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2017. What is the situation?

Reed Expositions filed an appeal before the judge hearing the application for interim measures. While the decision was expected at the end of December, Reed Expositions sent a message to all exhibitors, on the eve of the Nautic, indicating that they would organize the Cannes 2017 exhibition. We preferred not to react and simply confirmed that the shows would take place.

When the judge postponed his decision until February 2017, we began to see that the schedule could become critical and made written proposals to Reed Expositions through a mediator. We proposed, pending the judgment on the merits, that Reed Expositions remain the technical operator for the Cannes Yachting Festival 2017, while we retained control of commercial policy and promotion. Reed described the offer as unacceptable without making a counter-proposal.

The decision is expected on 03 February 2017. You consider this to be a deadline, which Reed Expositions denies. Can you explain to us what will happen next?

Even if the angle of view is different from that of Reed Expositions, we have stood by our position since the beginning of the affair. We will respect the judge's decision. If he agrees with Reed Expositions, they will ensure the 2017 edition of the Cannes show, while waiting for the judge on the merits. If not, we will launch the marketing of the Cannes Yachting Festival, via our new subsidiary Nautic Festival SA.

You presented this new subsidiary Nautic Festival SA at your last press conference. What will its role be in the coming months and years?

Nautic Festival SA is a subsidiary of FIN whose role is to organise the exhibitions it owns. At the end of 2016, we undertook to present this new structure in January 2017. The press conference was an opportunity to show that it is fully operational, thanks to the 7 people who took over Reed Expositions for the Nautic, including the general curator Alain Pichavant, to whom Jean-Daniel Compain joined us to continue to make the nautical industry prosper.

Exhibitors and the boating industry can be reassured about the future of boat shows. Nautic Festival SA will organize the Nautic 2017, with the support of the FIN team and already identified service providers. We also expect, as explained above, that it will organise the Cannes Yachting Festival and integrate its current teams within it. The power of the French nautical industry rests on two feet: the Nautic de Paris which is essential to the domestic market and the Cannes Yachting Festival, whose international dimension is essential to export. The objective is not to undress one to dress the other, but to strengthen the boating industry as a whole. Nautic Festival SA will have the advantage of not depending on a company that is accountable to financiers across the Atlantic.

The goal of Nautic Festival SA is also to continue to do better, not to break everything. We must be vigilant in the face of the fragility of boat shows, as examples such as Genoa and Barcelona have shown. If in 2017, the Cannes Yachting Festival does not take place, we lose much more than money.

What are these avenues of development?

We are building the project. A three-year plan should see the light of day.

In a first sequence, we analyze the exhibitors' feedback on commercial needs and their other requests. As for the Nauticlab, with which we open the floor to all actors to propose to the presidential candidates a plan for the nautical sector, we wish here too to appeal to collective intelligence.

In a second sequence, we will make more concrete choices. We already have tracks with for example the development of river tourism or dedicated halls, whose activities would vary every 2/3 days. Finally, I would like to strengthen the partnership with the regions and institutions, as we have done with Brittany, because they are the driving force behind the dynamics of French boating. My dream would be a fair whose innovations we remember, where we would meet business angels who would support our economy. These are some keys to the show of the future.

Report : FIN Vs Reed litigation

Reed Expo:"We want a Cannes boat show useful to the boating industry, not legal proceedings."

The confusion continues for the organization of the Cannes Yachting Festival 2017