When Michael Jackson had the conviction that he could do a better job of organising Microsoft’s European information technology conferences than his employer at the time, he borrowed money on his credit card to set up Ultimate Events in London in 1994. He was joined by former colleagues Rebecca Standish and Audrey Browne. The trio won a contract to organise Microsoft’s annual Tech Ed conference, a large fee-paying event that has doubled in size each year since 1995 and now has 7,500 participants. This contract has also opened a door for selling services to other Microsoft divisions. The company’s sales have risen 121% a year, from £1.1m in 1996 to £12.1m in 1999. Almost three-quarters of these come from exports to the Continent, where Britain is viewed as a centre of excellence in conference organisation, partly because of skills that have crossed over from London’s theatreland.
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