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Jupitermedia launches Comdex rival

A day after Comdex's backer files for bankruptcy protection, Jupitermedia announces plans for the Computer Digital Expo--also in November, also along the Las Vegas strip.

With Comdex having lost much of its fizz, a tech information company has decided to uncork a rival show along the Las Vegas strip.

Jupitermedia announced its plans Tuesday, just a day after Comdex's parent company filed for bankruptcy.

Jupitermedia has booked the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for the new trade show, dubbed Computer Digital Expo Fall 2003. The two events will be held the same week in November, just blocks apart.

The company declined to offer any details about exhibitors, keynote speakers or other core elements of its show.

On Monday, Comdex parent company Key3Media announced that it had filed a prenegotiated Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan, part of a broader effort to reduce its debt. The company has suffered financially as the economy declined and attendance at its shows waned.

The plan calls for Key3Media to eliminate around 87 percent of its debt, dropping the total figure to $50 million. Thomas Weisel Capital Partners will provide debtor-in-possession financing of around $30 million and will end up owning about 99 percent of the recapitalized company.

Key3Media said that it expects to emerge from Chapter 11 within 90 days of filing and that all of its trade shows, including Comdex, Networld+Interop and JavaOne, should take place as scheduled. In September, the company had said it would cancel a number of shows for 2003.

The Comdex trade show has traditionally been a launch pad for the high-tech industry, with manufacturers turning the spotlight on new products and technologies. But in a sagging economy, companies have scaled back attendance.

Jupitermedia CEO Alan Meckler had no qualms about criticizing Comdex and its parent company.

"We've been thinking about the future of Comdex for quite some time. While we didn't aggressively participate in trying to acquire Key3Media, the more we looked into it, the more we felt that not only was Key3 a broken company, but Comdex was a broken show," Meckler said.

Meckler said his company has been in talks with major high-tech companies but didn't name any that would be participating in the new show. He added that the show shouldn't have any trouble attracting exhibitors, because it will charge around 25 percent less than Comdex does for floor space.

"We'll be making 400 phone calls with sales staff between now and Friday. We think we'll knock off a few linchpin accounts," he said. "We don't need to be a huge show; we just need to be a better show."

Although he wouldn't predict exactly how large he expects the show to be, Meckler said it should "as big as Comdex was last year or bigger," or at least 100,000 square feet to 125,000 square feet.

But the new challenge hasn't fazed Key3Media CEO Fredric Rosen.

"Last year Comdex had more than 1,100 exhibitors, and more than 125,000 people came to the show," he said. "Talking about competing and competing are two different things. We welcome competition and believe the power of the brand of Comdex will prevail."