SCOOP: New chairman talks about the new Wizard World

Wizard World without Gareb Shamus. The entire idea would have seemed ridiculous until just a few days ago when an SEC filing revealed that Shamus, the owner and founder of the company, had been removed as CEO. It was startling news which left everyone wondering what would become of the Wizard brand—once mighty in both media coverage and entertainment shows.

Answers are beginning to emerge. In an interview with The Beat, Wizard’s executive chairman Mike Mathews revealed that a new era has already begun at Wizard World, which will include outreach to the entire industry in a move to repair damaged relationships with both other industry players and fans.

In one of the most notorious examples of the bad blood which the old Wizard had given rise to, subscribers to the print magazine had not been given any make-up subscriptions for issues paid for but never mailed. However, according to Mathews, a letter is being sent out to old subscribers offering them a $100 credit towards Wizard shows.


“Where are we headed is to be an entertainment company,” Mathews told The Beat. “First and foremost it’s all about treating our fans in a supportive manner and providing them with the best entertainment we can, putting on great conference and having great VIPS.”

Mathews described the convention side of the business—currently planned as New Orleans, Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago and Mid-Ohio, with Big Apple and Austin TBA—as robust. “With the last couple of shows business is excellent. And we couldn’t be happier. We have a couple of shows that are spectacular—Philadelphia and Chicago—but the reality is we’d like to have a number of cities that are spectacular as well.” While plans are in place to grow the business over the next year, he said that the number of shows is not yet set. There is room for more, but at the same time, if a show isn’t making money there is no reason to put it on.

A planning meeting is being held next week to decide the number of shows for 2012. Much of the future plan depends on the new CEO, who will be announced early in January—the company is already in talks with a candidate who already worked with Wizard. Jerry Milani, Peter Katz, and Kevin Kelly will all be staying on with the company.

As for the other part of the Wizard business – news and entertainment – Mathews said that part will be developed as well, under the new CEO’s guidance. Mathews own background is in web network and monetizing websites – he founded Interclick, the internet ad agency that was recently sold to Yahoo for $270 million. “We’ve rebuilt and are in the process of becoming a vertical ad network similar to Complex and We are also running and we are just finalizing deals with a number of music sites. When you think of us as an entertainment brand we don’t want to be just in a narrow category, but a broader category of entertainment.”

Although discreet about the process that led to Shamus’s ouster, Mathews did note that the stockholders had looked at recent company performance and decided that a change was needed. He also noted that “Gareb is one of these types of personalities who has taken strong positions over the years with various people in the industry and brands. And that kind of hurt us because of where we are trying to go—we’re trying to be a Switzerland of entertainment and we want to try to try to reach out to brands.” Accordingly, Mathews and other Wizard personnel are in the process of reaching out to industry players, dealers, and vendors and attempting to mend fences -– the fact that PR guy Jerry Milani actually was able to take steps to set up this interview is proof that things have changed.

Of course, one of the tactics Wizard had gained the most notoriety for in recent years was aggressively scheduling shows against other cons put on by entities perceived as competitors—most famously scheduling the Big Apple con the same week as New York Comic-Con and then moving it to the week before. More recently, the Toronto show moved its date to go up against C2E2 in Chicago, put on by Reed, which also throws NYCC. But Con Wars look to have ended.

While Mathews didn’t see moving the current shows that are already scheduled, “This ‘comic-con’ brand is an amazing business,” he said. “There is no reason why there needs to be tension. Let’s work together to make sure we have dates that work for all of us. We’re looking at things.”

“We really feel the way to be the Switzerland of the entertainment category is to have good relationships with all constituencies,” he concluded. “What we had wasn’t a long term success model and that’s what we recognized.”


  1. Evan says

    That form letter should still probably apologize first for the whole subscription snafu before offering the discount to a WW convention.

  2. says

    “With the last couple of shows business is excellent. And we couldn’t be happier. ”
    If that were truly the case, then Shamus would still be running the company.

    And what are they offering that could possibly be worth $100?
    The fact is that the comics industry doesn’t need an entity like Wizard anymore. The age of the Internet has passed them by.

  3. Harry Lime says

    Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

  4. Gary Dunaier says

    How do they plan to compensate someone who either can’t get to a Wizard show, or just plain doesn’t WANT to go?

  5. says

    I think what people should take from this is that they are trying to address the problems, and all solutions do not happen overnight.

    I look at this as a positive step. It’s easy to find the flaws and problems , but I also think its good to point them out so they can see what people are thinking.

    I personally think anything that promotes our field is a good thing. Lets see how this all goes.

  6. says

    Sins of the father and all that. Jeez, you guys are snipey of late.

    If the new team wants to reach to the community Shamus seemed to work so hard to alienate, why not give them a chance? Its not like they made Rob Granito or Josh Hoopes the new CEO is it? Mathews could turn out to be a Shamus clone sure, but until we get the lab results back I’m gonna be hopeful. I would love to see a robust, lively, positive Philly show again. So let them try to repair some of those charred bridges.

  7. Torsten Adair says

    To continue with his analogy, Wizard experienced a regime change. Like a country, a company has to find a new leader (in this case, CEO) to replace an iconic, but somewhat despised, tyrant.

    Will I attend any future Wizard shows? It depends on the price, the venue, and the programming. I’ve enjoyed the Big Apple Con in the past, even when I knew what to expect and avoid, since I met interesting people, found unusual merchandise, and didn’t spend a lot to get inside.

    I’ll probably attend the next one, to see what’s changed.

  8. Monty says

    Glad they are trying to improve people’s perceptions of Wizard, but they def should’ve just refunded everyone’s money, not just given ’em gift certificates to the show.

  9. says

    Just some background: when the SEO filing came out I emailed Jerry Milani asking for clarifications. A few days later he got back to me and said that he would put me in touch with John Macaluso, a member of Wizard’s board of directors. I was stunned — that was the first positive response I’d gotten to an interview request in many years. Macaluso took steps to contact me, he gave me some background information and put me in touch with Mathews for an on the record interview.

    All of this would have been unheard of under previous regimes.

    That said, I have always enjoyed cordial chats with Gareb Shamus whenever our paths crossed. He has never run away from me. At the same time, he hasn’t addressed any of the serious complaints that his customers have, or agreed to an on the record interview, which I found frustrating.

    I doubt that we’ve heard the last of him. But for now, Wizard World is in its Celine Dion phase, and its heart will go on.

  10. Vix Squid says

    “I think what people should take from this is that they are trying to address the problems, and all solutions do not happen overnight.

    I look at this as a positive step. It’s easy to find the flaws and problems , but I also think its good to point them out so they can see what people are thinking.

    I personally think anything that promotes our field is a good thing. Lets see how this all goes.”

    That’s a load of BS, Jimmy–how would you feel if shysters took your money and then refused to give it back? That’s all this is, and the offer IS NOT a credit, as it’s being presented.

    Don’t be a corporate tool.

  11. Xenos says

    Yeah. I guess something is better than nothing. Good to see maybe a new and better regime at Wizard actually dong anything about the problem… Yet for the fools who invested so much money for subscriptions… is a convention really worth it? They are a commitment and take time and money to go to. Aside from the con itself which this pseudo-refund gives you, you still have travel and hotel expenses. And there is no certainty of one in your area.

    You paid for a magazine, not to go to a convention.
    Never mind that there’s no guarantee of one even remotely in your area.

    Hell. I am in Boston and Wizard indefinitely canceled their New England Comic Con conventions here.

    Nevermind that last time I went to one, the people doing celeb photos took my hundred dollars for a photo with Adam West and Burt Ward, never gave me a photo that weekend, then kept ignoring my emails for months. Finally someone got back to me and they eventually got me the print and even a free bonus digital copy (whooo). They said they were restructuring and the person in charge of contact and mailing out photos was no longer with them. Still, the entire experience was the most unprofessional convention experience I’ve ever seen. Everything from the money taking, the photo taking, the line management. Ugh. I’d seen better organization at a high school science fair.

    And let’s not forget Wizard was letting Rob Granito sell his wares for years.

    Yeah. Credit for Wizard World tickets is a shit deal instead of a damn refund.

  12. Dave says

    Quick question — how much was a Wizard subscription prior to them closing shop? Last I checked it was something like $24 for 12 issues or something.

    I understand it’s the principle and everything — and I’m definitely not trying to defend Gareb here — but some of you are getting really bent out of shape over what amounts to a typical ATM withdraw.

  13. Chazz says

    Like Xenos said something is better than nothing I guess, I’ve been going to the Austin Comic-Con since it opened down here and have always been enjoying it just because it’s been forever since we’ve had any kind of comics convention down in Austin, plus I took my nephew to to his first convention there and he really loved it. Also I try to stop by the Big Apple Con whenever I’m up in NYC at that time of the year. I can understand though how Wizard subscribers might be P.O. just now with this whole situation.

  14. anonymous source says

    Katz is the problem.

    they will continue to be doomed if they don’t cut out that cancer.

  15. says

    “Much of the future plan depends on the new CEO, who will be announced early in January—the company is already in talks with a candidate who already worked with Wizard.”

    Wild speculation: but I wonder if this is Fred Pierce? And with money coming in from Cuneo and/or Kothari & Shamdasani… the point being, a reunion of Valiant/Wizard mutual interests. That would at least have a lot of curious nostalgia behind it, if nothing else.

  16. Micah says

    I had 5 years of Wizard subscriptions prepaid and 4 years of Toyfare subcriptions prepaid as a result of several people buying me subscriptions as gifts over the years. Is the $100 cupon supposed to cover all that loss?

  17. Anonymous says

    KATZ NEEDS TO GO!! That ass has fooled everybody till now somehow..let’s see if the new PTB figure him out and throw him to the curb!

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