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‘Our main focus is the UK and Europe’: TEG boss talks MJR buy

In an exclusive interview, TEG CEO Geoff Jones outlines the Australian company's European strategy with its new subsidiary, the MJR Group

By Jon Chapple on 19 Sep 2019

Geoff Jones, TEG

Geoff Jones has been CEO of TEG since 2011


Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG, has spoken to IQ about the Australian company’s plans for the MJR Group, the UK promoter and venue operator it acquired last month.

The MJR Group promotes more than 2,000 shows annually and owns and operates multiple venues in the UK, while Sydney-based TEG organises more than 200 tours a year through its owned promoters, TEG Dainty and TEG Live, and issues more than 28 million tickets with Ticketek. The merger of the two companies, said Jones at the time, “marks a significant step towards TEG becoming a global live entertainment powerhouse”.

Reflecting on the company’s growth over the past four years, Jones, who has been CEO of TEG (then known as Nine Entertainment), since 2011, says: “Previously, our core was certainly the Ticketek business, which is a very strong brand in Australia and New Zealand. When we were acquired by Affinity [an Asian private-equity firm that bought Nine in April 2015], their thesis was, ‘We want to grow this business; what can we do?’

“So now we’re in Asia: we’re promoting a lot there, we’ve set up a hub in Singapore and we’re looking into India now. But it occurred to us, when we started talking to MJR, that it made sense we should be in the UK. It’s a really open market where a company like ours can come in and set up… It’s obviously very competitive, but there are lots of things we can do with our integrated approach. And MJR’s model works very well with how we operate at TEG.”

While the MJR Group is already active in Australasia and the Middle East, Jones says TEG’s “main focus in acquiring” MJR is its footprint in the UK and mainland Europe.

Additionally, part of what attracted TEG to MJR is that “they’ve got some really nice niches” outside of straight concert promotion (recent MJR acquisitions include three new UK venues, theatrical producer Imagine This and club night Propaganda, and the company is producing and promoting exhibitions including Marvel’s popular Avengers Station). “We know who the big players are in the UK, and our intention is not to go out there and lock horns with them,” he explains. “We know those guys and respect them greatly, but we’re not looking to compete with the SJMs, the Live Nations, the AEGs… MJR play in a spot that we like.”

“We know those guys and respect them greatly, but we’re not looking to compete with the SJMs, the Live Nations, the AEGs”

At home, of course, TEG does just that, with recent “tier-one” tours including Eminem, Phil Collins, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Guns N’ Roses, Hugh Jackman and the Prodigy. “In our own country we’re a mature business,” Jones continues. “We’re a very strong player in all aspects, with the biggest ticketing company and a broad promotions business. It’s a model that works very well.”

Has the recent wave of consolidation down under, the most recent example of which saw AEG merging with Michael Gudinski’s Frontier Touring, spurred Affinity and TEG to look further afield for growth, IQ wonders?

“Not really – it hasn’t changed the dynamic here too much,” says Jones. “In our market there are Live Nation, AEG/Frontier and then the TEG businesses, and we’re comfortable with our positioning. We always talk about concerts, but we’re into family entertainment, exhibitions, sports, esports… so our model is slightly different to those other companies.”

With MJR, Jones says, the plan is to “take a lot of our content from Australia into Europe”, highlighting its live sporting content and and exhibitions, including the Brickman Lego expos, as examples.

While the MJR Group’s British operations are set to become TEG MJR, its business down under, MJR Presents, will “continue to operate as a standalone part of the TEG family”. “We’ll likely keep the name for a few years,” Jones explains, “like we have with Dainty [TEG acquired Paul Dainty’s Dainty Group in 2016 and rebranded the promoter TEG Dainty]. It’s going to be a gradual process.”

As for Propaganda, “we’ll keep that exactly as it is”, adds Jones.

“They now have that confidence to go forward and keep doing what they’re doing”

While Jones declines to talk financials, he says he was aware of the cashflow problems the MJR Group ran into earlier this year – but dismisses them as “growing pains” for an independent company competing with much better-funded rivals.

“It’s a very good business, and it’s a credit to the guys who established it,” he says. “All business is about people, and Rich [Buck, CEO] and Dan [Ickowitz-Seidler, Propaganda founder] are very good people.

“Think of how often you see smaller companies get absorbed by bigger ones, because it’s hard out there. These are independent promoters from Bristol trying to mix it up with the big guys, so rather than being critical, I have admiration for them, for their courage and entrepreneurial spirit.

Jones describes TEG’s role in the new partnership as being like a “big brother” to the MJR Group, enabling the future TEG MJR to keep “doing their thing” with the financial security that comes with being part of a bigger group.

“I’m really impressed by what they’ve done. It’s a great business model, and I love where they play in the touring and promoting world,” he says.

“They, and the people working with them, now have that confidence to go forward and keep doing what they’re doing, with the support of TEG as an active big brother who wants them to be very successful.”

 


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