Freeman Cos., one of the country’s largest trade show general services contractors, has acquired the third-largest general services contractor, Champion Exposition Services, and its parent company, Wheelhouse Solutions.

Wheelhouse consists of three companies: Champion, based in Middleborough, Mass.; Immersa Marketing, a San Francisco–based experiential marketing company; and George Fern Co., a smaller Cincinnati-based general services contractor that operates mainly in the Midwest. Immersa and George Fern will continue as individual brands, while Champion will be fully integrated into Freeman.

“Our respective companies were built on an unwavering commitment to providing an outstanding customer experience, with the best technology and creativity, and this commitment will remain the hallmark of everything we do,” said Joe Popolo, chief executive officer of Freeman. The focus is not to be the biggest, but to be the best, said Popolo.

Wheelhouse is a good fit for Freeman, said Popolo, because the companies have similar cultures and complementary capabilities. He singled out Champion’s strong customer service, award-winning creative teams, and leading-edge technology, including Champion’s Eventrac vendor management software. Also, Freeman gets the benefit of Immersa’s expertise in experiential marketing.

“This is a big step forward in the evolution of the experiential marketing industry,” said Popolo. “The timing is ideal as our industry is evolving from the trade shows of the past to today’s experiential events,” said Popolo.

Wheelhouse CEO Bob Priest-Heck will become CEO of Immersa and executive vice president at Freeman, reporting to Popolo. “The landscape of our industry is changing rapidly, and as the business expands, it is critical that we not only continue to do the basics very well, but also pioneer the movement of bringing experiential marketing to the next level,” said Priest-Heck. “We see this combination with Freeman as an exciting opportunity for not only our company but also for our customers who rely on us to enhance their community engagements in innovative ways.”

The integration of Champion into Freeman will take place over the next 30 days. Champion’s facility in Middleborough, will continue to operate under Freeman, but the company will evaluate all operations, functions, and facilities as part of the integration plan.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. For more on the acquisition, go to