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Ireland clears Live Nation-MCD Productions merger

Subject to several legally binding commitments, Irish competition authority CCPC has approved the acquisition of MCD by Live Nation-Gaiety

By Jon Chapple on 08 Jul 2019

MCD's Longitude festival took place last weekend

MCD's Longitude festival took place last weekend

Following an investigation, the Republic of Ireland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has cleared the acquisition of MCD Productions by LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG).

LNG – a joint venture between Live Nation UK and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – announced last August it planned to acquire Desmond’s company MCD Productions. Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman in the UK and Ireland in 2015, although MCD – founded by Desmond and Eamonn McCann in 1980, and now co-owned by Desmond and his wife, Caroline Downey – retained its independence.

CCPC announced a detailed ‘phase 2’ investigation into the merger, which looked into whether it would “substantially lessen” competition in the Irish concert market, at the start of this year, following a preliminary phase 1 probe in 2018.

According to the competition watchdog, it “identified a number of competition concerns arising from the overlapping activities of Live Nation and MCD in the provision of primary ticketing services, the promotion of live events and the operation of live event venues” in the republic. “These concerns included the likely impact on competition of future acquisitions of festivals or festival operators, the potential for anti-competitive information sharing, and the potential for retaliatory action against independent live event venues because they choose an alternative ticketing services provider,” according to a CCPC statement.

“We are pleased to learn that … the CCPC have approved MCD becoming part of the Live Nation Gaiety family”

To address these competition concerns, LN-Gaiety and MCD submitted the following proposals, which were accepted by CCPC:

  • To inform the CCPC in advance of any proposal to acquire control of a live music festival or a live music festival operator in the state, even if the proposed transaction would not meet the thresholds to be notifiable on a mandatory basis to the CCPC
  • To take steps to ensure that the identity of artists that independent promoters propose to promote in the state, which is disclosed to a venue owned, operated or managed by Live Nation during the booking process for a live event, is not directly or indirectly shared between Live Nation and MCD
  • Not to refuse or threaten to refuse to provide live events to an independent live event venue as a result of that venue choosing to contract with a primary ticketing services provider other than [Live Nation-owned] Ticketmaster
  • To conduct any contract or other negotiations relating to the supply of primary ticketing services by Ticketmaster to MCD on an ‘arm’s length’ basis, meaning MCD and Ticketmaster must each act “independently and in its own interest”

“A proposed transaction involving parties with interconnected activities, and a sector with a limited number of players, is particularly challenging…”

To read CCPC’s ruling in full, click here.

Isolde Goggin, chair of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, comments: “Today’s determination is the culmination of ten months of in-depth analysis and consultation. The assessment of a proposed transaction involving parties with interconnected activities and a sector with a limited number of players is particularly challenging and requires robust scrutiny. […]

“The CCPC’s review of the proposed transaction included economic analysis of the affected markets and evidence from third parties active at all levels of the supply chain including promoters, ticketing services providers and live event venues. Taking into consideration the commitments provided by the parties, there is no evidence that the proposed transaction will result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market for goods or services in the state.

“The commitments obtained are legally binding and include requirements in relation to compliance reporting.”

The merger remains under review in the UK, where the Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating competition concerns.

Commenting on the CCPC decision, Desmond says: “We are pleased to learn that following a comprehensive investigation, the CCPC have approved MCD becoming part of the Live Nation Gaiety family.”


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