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The Oak View Group CEO says the biz's "best years are directly in front of us" and tips MSG's Sphere project to "change our industry forever"
By James Hanley on 08 Aug 2023
Oak View Group (OVG) chief Tim Leiweke says he has no plans to take the company public while predicting the next 20 years will see the greatest number of arena developments “in the history of the business”.
OVG, which was founded in 2015 by former AEG CEO Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, oversees the operations of new venues such as Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center, UBS Arena in Belmont Park, New York, and Moody Center in Austin, Texas, and Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, California, as well as the Co-op Live development in Manchester, UK.
In a recent appearance on The Bob Leftsetz Podcast, Leiweke said the purpose of the Silver Lake-backed firm was to “think outside the box and be a positive disruption to the live industry”.
“OVG is a private company. I’m proud of that.” he said. “I hope we never go public. I don’t want to go public. My intention is never to sell the company. We have certain guiding principles and core values as a company. One of them is we don’t want to be public and don’t have any intention of ever being public. It’s not a quick spin. My daughter is one of the key executives here. She’s hopefully going to inherit this company and run it.
“My executive committee’s average age is in their 40s, so we’re built to be long term. We’re built to be private. We’re built to be generational – and that’s what we intend on doing.”
“There are billions and billions of people on the planet, but there are only probably 250 arenas that I would consider to be A-class, and even fewer stadiums”
Other OVG projects include Arena São Paulo in Brazil; CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore, FirstOntario Centre Arena in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; a new arena and entertainment district in Las Vegas, NV, and a new arena in Cardiff, Wales, UK. Pointing out that OVG had built the only seven new arenas to have opened in the last couple of years, Leiweke was critical of the existing standard of venues worldwide.
“There are billions and billions of people on the planet, but there are only probably 250 arenas that I would consider to be A-class, and even fewer stadiums,” said Leiweke. “Most of them aren’t very good. Most of them are very old. There are hundreds of arenas that are driving our industry as we know it today, but there are not very many arenas like we have in North America and the rest of the world.
“It is pretty shocking, but therein lies the opportunity, which is we’re going to see a huge explosion and a huge opportunity to build these world class arenas, and take what we’ve learned here… and be able to take that with us everywhere we go in the world.”
Leiweke went on to speak glowingly about MSG Entertainment’s Las Vegas Sphere project, which is set to open on 29 September with U2’s residency, U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At The Sphere.
“If you don’t think the industry is changing, then go look at what Jim Dolan’s building with Sphere, because it’s revolutionary. It’s masterful,” he said. “I don’t know how heck he came up with all of this [and I’m] not sure how the hell you pay for it. But what I know is he’s going to change our industry forever. And the minute that opens up in September we will never be the same.”
“If you look at how quickly it’s changing because of technology… we’re in a revolutionary moment in time”
He continued: “We spent $1.1 billion on Climate Pledge, Jim’s spending billions of dollars on the sphere. Steve Ballmer’s spending billions of dollars on the Intuit [Dome in Inglewood, California]. And if you look at how quickly it’s changing because of technology, and you look at how quickly it’s changing because of the customer experience – just things like engineering and acoustics and LED – we’re in a revolutionary moment in time.
“Even though there’s thousands of arenas, there’s very few new arenas outside of North America, and yet the demand has never been greater,” he said. “And I think you’re going to see the greatest amount of development of arenas in the history of the industry in these next 20 years.”
Last week it was revealed that OVG had won the contract to manage Chicago’s McCormick Place and Tulsa’s BOK Center, taking over from ASM Global, but Leiweke played down the rivalry between the two venue giants.
“I always remind our folks, stay focused on us,” he said. “We’re the greatest asset we have and we’re our own worst enemies. So stay focused on us. We’re going to be great, not because ASM is bad. We’re going to be great because OVG is going to excel.
“We bid on 33 accounts here in the last roughly six months. We won 30 of the bids. We don’t pay attention to the other guys. We stay focused on us. Our success is not because of their failure. We can both succeed and we both will succeed.”
“We hopefully are going to get an arena on the west side of London one day”
OVG has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Philadelphia and Toronto. Speaking about the company’s international ambitions, Leiweke revealed he had recently returned from a trip to Riyadh, predicting the Saudi Arabian capital would be “the centre of the universe” by 2030.
“I am shocked at the trillions and trillions of dollars they are putting into that country and rebuilding that country as quick as they are,” he said. “By 2030, Riyadh is going to be the centre of the universe… The arenas they’re building there, they’re off the charts. I’ve never seen anything like it. Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, Dubai – that whole world there is just amazing and it’s the centre of the universe.
“Let’s not forget they are right next to India, which is one of the fastest growing most important countries in the world. They’re right near Africa, and Africa is going to be a really critical part of the world and a part of our society that we need to pay attention to. Think of what Nigeria is doing to music today and the artists that are emerging and dominating our music from places like Lagos, so we’re going to build an arena in Lagos because that’s the future.”
He added: “We spend a lot of time in the UK – we hopefully are going to get an arena on the west side of London one day. We’re working on another project in Bristol, so we’re excited about that. We just won the bid in Vienna… We’re excited about Sao Paulo. You cannot ignore Brazil and the growth of that country. We’re trying to bid in Singapore because we we understand that part of the world is growing as well, so the majority of our growth is international.”
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