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Aug. 26, 2011

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A shake-up has hit the world of jewelry fairs, and it's not just because gem dealer and former American Folk Art Museum board chairman Ralph Esmerian was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud last month. No, the changes are more mundane, though still in the eight-figures. George Little Management (GLM), which runs 40 trade shows in 15 cities across the U.S. and Canada, is being sold by the Daily Mail group in London for $173 million in cash -- about the price of a small cache of diamonds (a good rock is ca. $8 mil).

The buyer for the operation, which earlier this summer had been priced at a hefty $240 mil, is the private investment firm Providence Equity Partners, which is merging with GLM. The Daily Mail group is apparently getting out of the exposition business -- it had owned David Lester’s Palm Beach International Fine Art Expositions, which it first bought and then sold at a loss back to the famed Floridian art fair organizer. The DM group had also once owned the SOFA fairs of both Chicago and New York.

GLM is a heavyweight in the antique jewelry show world, with a roster that includes the Original Miami Beach Antique Jewelry Show, a 900-plus dealer exposition next slated for the Miami Beach Convention Center, Feb. 2-6, 2012. Manhattan jewelry dealer Camilla Dietz Bergeron, Charles Plante Fine Art of London and Alberto Antiques from Rome are among the top-liners, who come from 22 countries. Some dealers were taken back by the news. "I'm totally surprised," said Gus Davis, a partner at Camilla Dietz Bergeron. "Maybe they can bring a breath of fresh air to the show -- even though I love the management team in place."

-- Brook Mason