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Legends announces acquisition of ASM Global

Legends has confirmed its long-rumoured acquisition of venue management giant ASM Global, creating a premium global live events company.

The blockbuster deal will enhance Legends’ services portfolio, positioning it to “meet the expanding needs” of sports organisations, venues and attractions around the globe, while “supporting its vision to deliver exceptional live experiences for fans in the digital age”.

Founded in 2008, premium experiences specialist Legends – which is backed by global investment firm Sixth Street – provides venue planning and project management, premium sales, sponsorship, hospitality and merchandise services.

High-profile clients include prestigious brands such as Real Madrid, SoFi Stadium, Dallas Cowboys, FC Barcelona, New York Yankees, and Ryder Cup, as well as the NFL, MLB, NASCAR, PGA of America and FIFA World Cup.

“Legends and ASM Global are both deeply client-centric and fan-focused and together we will deliver maximum value for our global client roster with even greater support and service options,” says Legends CEO Shervin Mirhashemi.

“Welcoming ASM Global to Legends is a capstone achievement in our 15-year journey”

“Welcoming ASM Global to Legends is a capstone achievement in our 15-year journey toward becoming the world’s trusted partner for connecting people with the brands and communities that matter most to them, and for helping our clients create memorable moments that keep their fans and patrons returning time and again.”

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Bloomberg previously reported that Legends was in talks over a US$1.85 billion financing package to fund the acquisition, which will expand both its geographic reach and range of services.

ASM Global, which was formed in 2019 following a merger between arena operators AEG Facilities and Onex’s SMG, operates buildings including ICC Sydney Convention Center, Avicii Arena in Stockholm, OVO Arena Wembley, Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai and State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Current ASM Global equity holders Onex and AEG will sell their ownership interests as part of the deal, while ASM Global will continue to serve existing and in-development AEG venues.

“We’re thrilled to join Legends, which shares our client-first approach and advances our goal of offering our partner organisations a truly seamless experience while driving the growth of their businesses,” says Ron Bension, president and CEO of ASM Global.

“Our clients will benefit from Legends’ robust services, innovation, technology, and global partnerships which, combined with ASM Global’s venue management and content and event booking expertise, will provide our clients with locally tailored solutions and cutting-edge technologies to achieve outstanding fan experiences and improved venue owner results.”


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Providence Equity takes stake in Sphere designer

Providence Equity Partners has acquired a minority stake in Populous, an architectural and design firm for sports and entertainment venues.

Providence, which already backs Superstruct, Wasserman and Ambassador Theatre Group, says the acquisition “fits squarely with [our] focus on sports, entertainment and live events businesses”.

Founded in 1983 as HOK Sports Facilities Group, Populous’s portfolio spans 3,000 projects including Yankee Stadium in New York, Wembley Stadium in London, Stadium Australia and every Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games since 1996.

The firm’s portfolio also boasts the $2.3 billion Las Vegas Sphere (cap. 18,600), which officially opened on 29 September with U2’s residency.

Providence’s investment in Populous is subject to customary regulatory approvals and financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Populous has established an exceptional reputation for designing vibrant entertainment destinations”

Populous will continue to be led by one of its founders and global chair, Earl Santee, and its existing leadership.

“As our industry continues to evolve, we believe this partnership will enable greater integration and expansion of our global business,” says Santee. “Providence has a strong track record of supporting the success of businesses that deliver world-class events and experiences, and we believe their expertise will further accelerate our momentum and enable us to capitalize on additional growth opportunities while retaining the core values and culture that are integral to Populous.”

Scott Marimow, a managing director at Providence, adds: “Over the last 40 years, Populous has established an exceptional reputation for designing vibrant entertainment destinations that create unforgettable experiences for fans, spectators and communities worldwide.

“We have been impressed by the differentiated business and culture that Earl and his team have built, as well as its world-class portfolio of projects for some of the most iconic names in sports and entertainment. We believe Populous is well positioned for continued, sustainable growth and will benefit from consumer demand for live entertainment and increased infrastructure investment by venue owners seeking to create new and innovative environments and experiences.”

The Providence deal was announced after Monday’s news that Pennsylvania State University had selected Populous to design a multi-year renovation of Beaver Stadium (cap. 106,000), the second-largest stadium in the US.


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Warner acquires Indian live events firm E-Positive

Warner Music Group (WMG) has acquired India-based live events and artist management company, E-Positive.

WMG says that the deal strengthens its position in the market and will allow its artists “to tap into new expertise in brand partnerships and live events”.

The record label conglomerate officially launched Warner Music India in March 2020 and has since struck distribution deals with Bollywood specialist Tips Music and Punjabi music company Sky Digital India.

The firm has also inked strategic partnerships with Indian pop star Armaan Malik (in February 2022), with JetSynthesys in September 2021, and with Jjust Music in April 2022. In February, the major acquired a majority stake in India-based digital media and music firm, Divo.

Now, WMG has acquired E-Positive, which represents Darshan Raval – “one of the top five most streamed artists in India and the fastest growing artists in the region, having quadrupled his daily streams in the last 12 months”.

E-Positive will continue to act as a standalone company and will be led by founder and CEO, Naushad Khan, who has promoted more than 15,000 shows in the market.

“Naushad’s knowledge of brand partnerships and the live sector will be a great asset for us at Warner Music India”

Since launching E-Positive, he has also been instrumental in managing the careers of a number of artists, including Raval, whom he discovered and helped develop into a star.

“This is an exciting day in the journey of E-Positive,” says Khan. “I have worked towards developing a legacy for over 10 years and have shaped the journey of each one of my artists. I’m delighted that we have found a new home at Warner Music India. The team at Warner Music India will aid us in expanding into the international market and enable our artists to connect with more fans globally. We are looking forward to the next chapter of E-Positive.”

Jay Mehta, managing director, Warner Music India, adds: “Naushad has done an incredible job of positioning E-Positive as a leading management company and his knowledge of brand partnerships and the live sector will be a great asset for us at Warner Music India.

“And it’s a privilege to welcome such a phenomenal artist as Darshan Raval into the global Warner Music family. Darshan is a true star, and we believe he can become a staple on the global stage.”

Alfonso Perez Soto, president, Emerging Markets, Warner Music, said: “This deal once again reinforces our desire to become the number one destination for artists in India, and welcoming an artist like Darshan onto our roster is a real statement of intent.

“Darshan, as well as the whole of the E-Positive roster, will be able to harness Warner Music’s global network and start to connect with a wider international audience.

“This deal helps us to level-up and enhance our 360 offering to artists by bringing in the knowledge and expertise of Naushad to Warner Music. Our improved suite of services will enable our artists to transcend the whole of India and help bring Indian culture to the rest of the world.”


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Legends seeks $1.85bn to acquire ASM Global

Legends Hospitality is reportedly pursuing a US$1.85 billion financing package to fund the potential acquisition of ASM Global, according to a new report in Bloomberg.

The New York-headquartered firm, which is backed by global investment firm Sixth Street Partners, specialises in delivering planning, sales, partnerships, hospitality, merchandise and technology solutions for sports and entertainment.

According to the report, Legends is in discussions with a group of private credit firms led by Ares Management Corp. and KKR & Co. to finance an acquisition of the US-headquartered venue management giant.

A merger with ASM would add facility operations to Legends’ offering, effectively completing a 360-degree business model. It would also see Legends become the world’s biggest third-party facility manager.

The financing package – which would include a number of different flexible loan types ranging in value from $100m to $1.55bn – would help pay for the takeover and refinance existing debt at Legends and ASM.

The deal would see Legends become the world’s biggest third-party facility manager

Alongside Ares Management Corp, the lender group also includes Apollo Global Management Inc. and Oaktree Capital Management.

Rumours of a merger came in July after a Mergermarket story claimed private equity firm Onex Corp, which owns 50% of ASM, had asked Goldman Sachs to oversee a formal sales process for the company.

Two months prior, Mergermarket said Onex and Goldman Sachs, serving in an advisory role, invited a limited number of prospective buyers to express interest in ASM. The group would be pitched to suitors with a projected EBITDA in the region of $250m.

ASM Global runs around 350 arenas, stadiums and convention centres worldwide, including a dozen NFL and NBA venues. AEG Facilities owns the remaining 50% of ASM Global after it merged with the old SMG to form a standalone company in 2019.

Legends counts the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams among its US clients. In Europe, it works with teams including Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Liverpool FC, and Manchester City FC.


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WME acquires True Grit Talent Agency

WME has acquired True Grit Talent Agency, a Texas-based company founded in 2016.

As part of the deal, WME signs True Grit’s entire roster which includes Cody Jinks, Charles Wesley Godwin, Whitey Morgan, Ward Davis, and Dexter and The Moonrocks.

The agency’s team, including agents Mike Krug, Carrie Creasey and Shelby Vanek, have also joined WME and will continue to work out of Austin.

“We are very excited that what we do caught the eye of a company like WME,” says Krug. “We are proud of all we have built here in Austin and know that joining WME will create exponentially more opportunities for our clients.”

“We’ve long admired the business and roster that True Grit has developed”

Jay Williams, WME partner and Nashville office co-head, adds: “We’ve long admired the business and roster that True Grit has developed, and we are excited to bring their artists and the team into the WME family and expand WME’s footprint in Austin.”

Arthur Penhallow, founder of the True Grit companies, is continuing on as True Grit Management with clients including Charles Wesley Godwin, Whitey Morgan, Erin Viancourt and Coleman Jennings. Additionally, Reed Turner is now a partner at True Grit Management.

WME notes that this year’s acquisitions of True Grit Talent Agency and Red 11 Music have expanded the agency’s presence in Texas, as well as in the American Roots music genre.

Elsewhere within the genre, WME represented all three headliners (Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Chris Stapleton) at Stagecoach festival in 2023 and its clients won the most categories at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and Country Music Association (CMA) Awards multiple years in a row.


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CTS Eventim increases stake in France Billet

CTS Eventim has become a majority shareholder in France Billet, the largest ticketing company in France.

The pan-European live entertainment giant has acquired a further 17% from Fnac Darty, taking its stake from 48% to 65%.

Fnac Darty, France’s largest retailer of entertainment products, consumer electronics and household appliances, owns the remaining 35% and will continue to “actively support the ticketing business in France through its stores and the Fnac Spectacles brand”.

CTS Eventim has acquired a further 17% from Fnac Darty, taking its stake from 48% to 65%

The transaction, subject to the necessary approval of the competition authorities, is expected to take place within a few months.

CTS Eventim first took a stake in France Billet in November 2019, merging its own French ticketing activities into the partnership.

France Billet, along with subsidiaries Tick&Live and Eventim France, manages 36 million tickets in France through its ticketing technology and services activities.

The company was recently named the official supporter of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games ticketing services.


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French tycoon linked with $7 billion CAA deal

Billionaire French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire a majority stake in Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

According to Bloomberg, the proposed deal would value the leading entertainment and sports agency, which is backed by private equity firm TPG, at US$7 billion (€6.2bn), although one source indicated the talks “could still end without an agreement”.

Pinault is chairman and CEO of Paris-headquartered luxury goods company Kering, owner of brands such as Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent.

Pinault, TPG and CAA have declined to comment on the report, while a representative for Kering denied the group was involved.

CAA’s music clients include the likes of Harry Styles, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse

Founded in 1975, CAA is headquartered in Los Angeles, and has offices in New York, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago, Miami, London, Munich, Geneva, Stockholm, Shanghai and Beijing, among other locations. TPG upped its 35% stake in the firm to 53% for a reported $225 million in 2014.

CAA consolidated its position at the forefront of the international live music agency lanscape last year with its acquisition of ICM Partners (ICM), in a move valued at $750 million by Hollywood Reporter. The agreement was said to be the largest talent agency transaction since WME acquired IMG in 2014.

The company’s music clients include the likes of Harry Styles, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Florence + The Machine, Dermot Kennedy, Sam Smith, Kylie Minogue, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lorde, Green Day, Muse, Sam Fender, Haim, The Black Keys and Paramore.

CAA is not the only music industry giant to be the subject of sale rumours this week. Reuters reports that live behemoth Superstruct Entertainment is being readied for a sale by its owner – private equity firm Providence – with a potential £1bn price tag, while hospitality giant Legends is in discussions to acquire ASM Global according to VenuesNow.


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Live Nation acquires Colombia’s Páramo Presenta

Live Nation has expanded its presence in Latin America by acquiring a majority stake in leading Colombian promoter Páramo Presenta.

The deal was executed via Mexico’s Ocesa, in which LN secured a controlling interest in December 2021.

Páramo is best known for its flagship four-day event Estereo Picnic, the biggest music festival in Colombia. Held in Bogotá, its most recent edition in March was headlined by Twenty One Pilots, The Chemical Brothers, Drake and Billie Eilish.

The firm’s festival portfolio also includes Bogotá’s Baum Festival and Knotfest.

“Páramo is fresh off of a record year and their team are some of the best in the business,” says Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino. “Colombia is a booming market, and we’re looking forward to working with our new partners at Páramo and longtime partners OCESA as we continue our expansion across Latin America.”

“We are excited to build upon our deep relationship with Live Nation, and welcome Páramo as a partner,” adds Ocesa CEO Alejandro Soberón Kuri. “Together, we will continue to elevate the live entertainment landscape in Latin America, adding Páramo’s top festivals and concert roster to Ocesa’s large scale events in Colombia.”

“Almost 20 years ago, we embarked on this journey because we saw the opportunity to bring more artists we love to Colombia”

All future events will be ticketed through Ocesa’s Colombian ticketing entity Eticket as part of the partnership.

“Almost 20 years ago, we embarked on this journey because we saw the opportunity to bring more artists we love to Colombia,” says Páramo Presenta CEO Gabriel García.

“After being raised in an era with very few shows in the country, and being part of an exponential rise of live music, today we celebrate this historic merge with Live Nation and Ocesa, two of the most important entertainment companies in the world, with the firm conviction that it will propel us to new heights and provide even more unforgettable moments between artists and fans, becoming a key part of the country’s growth and strengthening our market to be increasingly competitive on the global stage of live entertainment.

“All of this was made possible thanks to the public and the sponsors who have believed in and supported our work.”

Live Nation’s Ticketmaster business recently strengthened its foothold in Latin America by launching new operations in Brazil and Peru, adding to its existing operations in Argentina, Mexico and Chile. LN’s C3 Presents and Rock City also took control of Lollapalooza Brazil earlier this year.


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K-pop giant HYBE aims to raise $380m for US M&A

HYBE, the South Korean music agency behind BTS and Ariana Grande, is reportedly looking to raise around 500 billion Korean won (approx USD $380m) to fund acquisitions in the US.

The Seoul-based K-pop giant “is in talks with investors to secure equity financing,” according to a report from Bloomberg, “and is open to having both strategic and financial partners”.

It comes after HYBE chairman Bang Si-Hyuk spoke about his company’s ambitions to expand its global presence via M&A and diversify its sphere of influence beyond K-Pop in the global music business.

In a March interview with CNN about the company’s US M&A strategy, Si-Hyuk notes that “globally, [K-pop] is not occupying much of the market”.

He added: “On the other hand, Latin music and afrobeats is very rapidly growing. So being where we are, it is more urgent to increase the exposure. For that purpose, I’m taking over labels and management companies in America to be able to build the infrastructure.”

“Globally, [K-pop] is not occupying much of the market… [so] it is more urgent to increase the exposure”

HYBE’s $1 billion-plus acquisition of Scooter Braun’s US-based Ithaca Holdings was a big step in bringing numerous non-K-pop operations into the fold, via HYBE America.

The deal saw HYBE take ownership of country music giant, Big Machine Label Group, as well as Braun’s own management company, SB Projects (home to Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande).

In February, HYBE expanded further in the US entertainment business when HYBE America, led by Braun, acquired Atlanta rap powerhouse QC Media Holdings or Quality Control, home to acts such as Lil Baby, Migos, Lil Yachty and City Girls, in a deal worth $300 million in total.

That acquisition came around the same time a bidding war broke out between HYBE and South Korea’s Kakao Entertainment for rival K-pop company, SM Entertainment.

In February HYBE acquired a 14.8% stake in SM Entertainment, for around $335m via the acquisition of shares from Lee Soo-man, SM Entertainment’s estranged founder.

HYBE planned to acquire a 40% stake in SM Entertainment but officially ended its takeover bid on 12 March. Kakao Corp. is now the largest shareholder in SM Entertainment though Bloomberg reports that HYBE still owns around an 8.95% stake in SM.


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OVG buys British hospitality group Rhubarb

Oak View Group (OVG) has acquired Rhubarb Hospitality Collection, a high-end hospitality group with venues in London, New York and Berlin.

Rhubarb’s 2,000-strong team caters for over five million people every year at venues including Hudson Yards (New York) and Royal Albert Hall, Ascot Racecourse, Sky Garden, 22 Bishopsgate in London. Other clients include immersive live entertainment experiences Mamma Mia! The Party and Frameless.

The company, which boasts more than 25 years in the industry, is forecasted to deliver nine-figure revenues in 2023.

OVG says the acquisition of Rhubarb will drive plans to transform the food and beverage experience at arenas, stadiums, and live entertainment venues across the UK and around the world.

The transaction represents a continuing expansion by OVG into premium hospitality, with its new food and beverage arm, OVG Hospitality, now “the fastest-growing concessions and premium hospitality platform in the live entertainment and convention industry,” according to the company.

In recent years, OVG has acquired a number of companies in the hospitality industry including Bovingdons Catering and Spectrum Catering, Concessions & Event Services.

“By adding Rhubarb we think we are now best-in-class on premium experience and hospitality”

“This acquisition, along with other companies we acquired over the last two years, gives us a platform that we think rivals or is better than any other food and beverage company out there,” says Tim Leiweke, chairman and CEO, Oak View Group.

“We feel strongly about this because we are facility owners and operators, and we see food and beverage differently than people who are simply just third-party vendors. If you look at the arenas we own and operate and you look at our upcoming ventures, like Co-op Live, by adding Rhubarb we think we are now best-in-class on premium experience and hospitality and that is in large part because of our knowledge and experiences as arena owners and operators, not just food and beverage vendors.

“We’ve always believed that fans deserve the very best, from their experience getting to and from an arena to the best possible presentation of the show they’ve chosen to see, to the food and drink they buy. It has been clear from our first meeting that the Rhubarb team shares both our vision to elevate the fan experience, as well as our focus on quality, sustainability, and the importance of a great company culture. Rhubarb and OVG are the perfect partners to design and deliver the world’s best hospitality at venues around the world.”

Pieter-Bas Jacobse, chief executive of Rhubarb Hospitality Group, adds: “This is an incredibly meaningful partnership for Rhubarb, and we are thrilled to partner with OVG. We have known the team for many years, they understand our business model, and we all see best-in-class hospitality as essential to the value proposition between venues and their fans. Together, we are determined to redefine what it means to deliver a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience in our industry.”

OVG oversees the operations of Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center, UBS Arena in Belmont Park, NY, and Moody Center in Austin, TX as well as arena development projects for Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, CA; Co-op Live in Manchester, UK; and projects for Arena São Paulo in São Paulo, BZ; CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore, MD; FirstOntario Centre Arena in Hamilton, ON; a new arena and entertainment district in Las Vegas, NV; and a new arena in Cardiff, Wales.


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