Two of the biggest VIP and hospitality service companies in North America have joined forces. Earlier this week, Dan Berkowitz announced that his music travel and experience company CID Entertainment had been acquired by PrimeSport, the leading firm for travel and VIP packages in the sports world. CID started in 2007 and Berkowitz has grown the company to over 70 employees, providing the ultimate event experiences for artists like Phish, Luke Bryan, Alan Jackson and festivals like Tortuga, Coachella and last summer’s Fare Thee Well. Amplify recently caught up with Berkowitz to discuss the deal and learn what he hopes the new super firm can accomplish as the leading providing of top-shelf experiences.
Got it. Ok, let’s go back to the very beginning. When did you first start discussing a sale with PrimeSport?
We were introduced by someone who knew we were both interested in working together. It started as a commercial conversation. We are CID, we do travel packages, we do shuttles, we do these enhanced experiences and destination shows. Maybe there’s an opportunity for us to work together. When we started talking, we realized that there was a bigger opportunity. It wasn’t like they were shopping for us, or we were shopping around. But they have amazing relationships with leagues and teams and I was trying to see if there was a way that we could help them execute the packages that they have. I think within a couple weeks it turned into a conversation about “Well, what if we just joined forces,” and then we basically became one.
Was it a quick transaction?
There’s nothing for me to compare it to because I’ve only started and sold one business. I was very specific with the type of deal that I wanted so that we could preserve the culture here at CID, and they were agreeable to that. Getting through all the deal points took a little longer. We just had to all get on the same page and then it goes to the lawyers and accountants and of course that takes a little while. We’re a business that has a lot of moving parts and throughout this process, I still had a company to run.
What was most important to you in closing this sale?
I wanted to make sure that they were aligned with our belief that CID is all about our people and the culture we’ve created here. Our employees really love working here and that is something we needed to preserve.
You didn’t want to break up the band.
And I don’t want to go anywhere either. I want to stay for a really long time. I don’t ever want to leave and I don’t want my people to leave. I want us to be able to continue on the path that we’re going. PrimeSport views us as their musical counterpart. Rather than them taking over our business, we’re now partners. I’ve got all these new very, very smart people that are going to help us. If they were to buy a sports-travel package company, they might just fully integrate that company and become one company. We’re their musical counterpart and we’re going to stay separate companies in that CID is going to handle all music things, and PrimeSport is going to handle all sports things.
But just so I got this right, this is an acquisition and not a merger.
Correct, technically, as the deal dictates, it’s an acquisition. That being said, I still have a bit of skin in the game. My motivation is still the same as it ever was — to provide exceptional service for our guests and our partners and to make CID a great place to work. PrimeSport is now our biggest partner. Our goal is to provide exceptional service to them, which is no different than what we would do for Luke Bryan or Coachella — it’s just on a much bigger scale. Whereas, when we work for Luke Bryan on his tour, he’s our partner, and we’re beholden to him on a lot of different levels, and now we’ve got PrimeSport as our partner, and we’re beholden to them basically for the whole business.
Where is PrimeSport based?
They’re based in Atlanta.
Will you keep your offices in Philly?
Yes. Prime Sport also has offices in Raleigh and LA, and we’ve got offices in Denver and Nashville.
Denver huh? You seem to be pretty tight with the guys at Madison House in Boulder. What’s that relationship?
We’re just really tight. We work on a lot of things together. There’s no official corporate affiliation. But, I would just say if CID had a couple best friends in the music industry, Madison House would definitely be one of them.
Maybe a bestie, that’s what the kids say now, or BFF.
As you start to work closer with PrimeSport, are you finding you have the same customers?
Yeah, but that’s the lowest hanging fruit on how this partnership could be mutually beneficial. Yes, the same people buying Desert Trip travel packages are also buying BNP Paribas Open from PrimeSport at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Both are in the Coachella Valley. The same people that go to The Masters in Augusta would probably attend Fare Thee Well.
If that’s the low-hanging fruit, what’s the big coconut high up in the tree?
The big picture is creating the best event, hospitality and production company in the world. We want to service people who are fans of live music and sports in a way that they’ve never thought was available. We want to use PrimeSport’s best practices and CID’s best practices to create a best-in-class organization where everybody wants us taking care of their fans, that’s the big picture.
What’s the market like right now for VIP? What are people asking for in 2016?
They’re asking for two things — simplicity and access. You know, if we can provide things that they can’t get themselves, obviously there’s a lot of value in that. If we can make going to a stadium, arena or amphitheater show a little simpler for them, they like that too. We’ve got this product that’s called the Seamless Package, which would be our lowest-priced VIP-type experience. It’s a parking spot, a private entrance and a seat that’s ideally near that parking spot and private entrance.
That does sound both seamless and simple. What are you working on now?
We just wrapped up the Muse tour and we’re still on the Weird Al tour, where we have an exhibit that is curated by the artist and our staff that takes some iconic clothing, handwritten lyrics and instruments and presents. It’s a very cool experience for the fans.
So you’re creating the content then?
Well…we’re aggregating content. I didn’t create the Wheel of Fish, Weird Al did. I’m not sure if you’ve seen UHF.
Oh yeah I love that movie. My favorite line is when they start the TV station and Weird Al says “Running a TV station is just like running a fish market, except you don’t have to clean and gut fish all day.”
Yeah that’s basically our motto too. I like to say “it’s not like we’re digging ditches over here, unless we’re actually digging ditches, because we also do that sometimes.”
I like that.
Yeah. Really what we’re doing is bringing people something that they can’t experience on their own by creating an authentic connection between the artist and their fans. We do it in a way that is very different than anything they’ve ever experienced.