Macaluso resigns, Maata and Kessler take over at Wizard World

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John Macaluso has resigned as CEO, President board member of Wizard World (WIZD), proffering his resignation last week after four years running the company and serving as the public face of Wizard.

John Maata will take over as President and CEO, with Paul Kessler taking the spot as chairman of the board.

Macaluso took over as public face of the convention company in 2012, coming to the company from the apparel business. When he joined, we had an interview, where he told me he was excited to be learning about comics and the convention business. I’m sure he learned a LOT in those four years.

Reach by phone, he told me Wizard was “the best job I ever had.” He hopes to remain in the business in some capacity whether in the entertainment business or doing more live events. Macaluso agreed with my assessment that the convention space has become very crowded in the last few years, but “people still respond to a good quality production. The fans are a smart group of people and you have to treat them like smart people.”

He’ll remain on Wizard’s board He’s also resgiend from Wizard’s board but says he’s available for any help they might need.

Wizard’s business has been suffering from a bit of the “con-solidation” I’ve been noting in the last twelve months, with more fly by night productions sinking and increased competition in many markets impacting weaker shows.

A publicly traded company, Wizard’s most recent annual report showed this clearly, with a $4.3 million loss in 2015. Adding more shows in weaker markets did not increase profits:

Wizard World is cutting back the number of conventions it runs in 2016 after a tough year in 2015, when the company lost $4.25 million.  That’s a big swing from 2014, when Wizard World turned a profit of $995,000.  Q4 must have been tough, as losses through Q3 were only a little over $2 million (see “New Shows, ConTV Drag on Profits at Wizard World”). 

And it appears that revenues at existing shows declined, even as new shows were added.  Convention revenue for 2015 was $22.9 million on 25 shows, vs. $23.1 million in 2014 on 17 shows.  Average revenue per event dropped from $1.36 million per show in 2014 to $916,000 per show in 2015.


This could also be a general reaction to “con fatigue” among some attendees. Perhaps with this in mind Wizard is branching out with different kinds of events, such as a cruise and live music, including a Grimes concert in Philadelphia. Certainly, the need to constantly show a profit in a publicly traded company puts a lot of pressure on anyone running a business in this competitive field, so whatever the cause of the resignation, I’m sure Macaluso is enjoying a little down time. S

Taking over Wizard will be John D. Maatta, 63:
 

John D. Maatta has been a member of the Board since May 25, 2011 and was appointed Chairman of the Board on February 5, 2016. Mr. Maatta is currently engaged in the private practice of law. Formerly, Mr. Maatta was EVP of The CW Television Network and prior to that he was the Chief Operating Officer of The CW Network, which is America’s fifth broadcast network and a network that focuses substantially on targeting young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. From September 2005 through September 2006, Mr. Maatta served as the Chief Operating Officer of The WB, a Warner Bros. television network (“The WB”), where he had direct oversight of all business and operations departments, such as business affairs, finance, network distribution (which included The WB 100+ station group), technology, legal, research, network operations, broadcast standards and human resources. While Chief Operating Officer at The WB, Mr. Maatta also served as The WB’s General Counsel. Mr. Maatta is currently a director of Trader Vic’s, Inc., a Polynesian-style restaurant chain, a position he has held since 1998. Mr. Maatta received a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of San Francisco in 1974, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, in 1977.


 
The bio for Kessler, 55:

Paul L. Kessler has served as a member of the Board since March 17, 2013. Mr. Kessler combines over 25 years of experience as an investor, financier and venture capitalist. In 2000, Mr. Kessler founded Bristol Capital Advisors, LLC, a Los Angeles based investment advisor, and has served as the Principal and Portfolio Manager from 2000 through the present. Mr. Kessler has broad experience in operating, financing, capital formation, negotiating, structuring and re-structuring investment transactions. He is involved in all aspects of the investment process including identification and engagement of portfolio companies. His investment experience encompasses both public and private companies. Mr. Kessler works actively with executives and boards of companies on corporate governance and oversight, strategic repositioning and alignment of interests with shareholders.


Wizard was founded by Gareb Shamus and his brother Stephen as an era defining magazine back in 1991. Shamus resigned from the company in 2011,  but has been pursuing a career as a fine artist of late, with a successful debut at Art Basel in Miami last year. I saw him at an event the other night and he looks exactly the same as he did when he was running Wizard, so a more relaxed creative life definitely agrees with him.

I’d like to add, Macaluso was always a straight shooter with me, and promptly answered any tough questions I had, which was much appreciated. It sounds like he wants to stick around nerd world for a while, so it will be interesting to see where he lands. 


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Comments

  1. V wiley says

    Not surprised here at Chicago. Wizard World didn’t compete well enough with C2E2 here, costing more at admission, and not having panels, publishers, or special events. It seemed to be getting even further away from comics, concentrating more on a personality autograph type of show. Sadly, the best thing about the show was it’s location, with a lot more around it afterwards than at C2E2’s location at McCormick place. Hopefully, they can reassess and become a bit more competitive, as two shows in Chicago is pretty cool. These days, most can afford just one, though.

  2. Torsten Adair says

    I hope they do well. Not my thing (although I will be attending in Philly with friends), but they serve a lot of markets overlooked by many conventions.

    Recently, they held a one-day, two Doctor Who (10+11) meet-and-greet event in Times Square (the Astor/PlayStation Theater)
    Different package levels got different times to meet the Doctors… no panels, no dealers(?), and few additional Doctor Who celebrities.
    Not a bad idea. Quick and easy. NYCC could do something similar, during Comics Week.
    (My only criticism was that Tennant and Smith were underdressed…looking a bit like their fans!)
    http://www.unrealitytv.co.uk/showbiz/matt-smith-david-tennant-doctor-who-proposal-wizard-world/

  3. Steve says

    V wiley – I went to their Chicago show last year and they had a ton of great panels, and hosted Bruce Campbell’s film festival offsite. However, you are correct on the publishers. They don’t really get anyone now days.

  4. Dinah Lance Henriksen says

    Chicago was giving out variant comics over the last few years. And I’m with Steve, there were panels all over the place, and the free film festival, and an arcade, and tabletop.

    I’m fine with general nerd stuff (Dr Who, Daredevil) because those fans get really excited, and aren’t as finnicky as we comic folks. That Chicago show is bigger than it ever was, and I’m excited to see it grow!

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