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Birmingham arenas launch anti-homophobia campaign

NEC Group-owned Arena Birmingham (15,800-cap.) and Resorts World Arena (15,685-cap.) have become the first in the UK to tackle homophobic acts through the ‘Ask for Clive’ campaign.

The campaign encourages venues to show solidarity against discriminatory behaviour. Posters on display let customers know that if they see any abuse of LGBTQ people they can report it to staff by “asking for Clive”.

Those affected can then access a safe space whilst the incident is investigated and the appropriate action is taken.

The campaign is named after the organiser of the annual Herts Pride event and advocate for sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, Clive Duffey.

Similar code-word safety initiatives are already used within the live event space, including FKP Scorpio’s anti-harassment scheme Which way to Panama? and Ask for Angela, which is used by those experiencing sexual violence or feeling unsafe in venues across UK and the world.

“I am delighted to have two of the UK’s leading live entertainment venues on board in Resorts World Arena and Arena Birmingham,” says Ask for Clive founder Danny Clare.

“Ask for Clive’s message will now be seen by millions of live-event fans, which will play a big part towards eradicating unacceptable behaviour

“Ask for Clive’s message will now be seen by millions of live-event fans, which will play a big part towards the ultimate goal of eradicating unacceptable behaviour and building a visible support network for everyone in the wider community.”

Guy Dunstan, who was promoted to director of arenas at NEC Group in January, says assuring the safety of all guests is “important” to the venue operator.

“Ask For Clive is such an important initiative in the stand against homophobia and transphobia,” comments Dunstan. “We hope that we can encourage both other venues in Birmingham and other arenas across the UK to follow suit and take a stand too.”

The NEC Group was acquired by US private-equity giant the Blackstone Group in October 2018, in a deal believed to exceed £800 million.

The group’s portfolio includes Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre and the Vox Conference Centre, as well as ticket agency the Ticket Factory.

 


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NEC Group announces changes to arena management team

Birmingham-based NEC Group has promoted two key members of its arena management team, with Guy Dunstan upped from general manager to director of arenas, and Phil Mead becoming arenas and The Ticket Factory (TTF) chairman.

The NEC Group manages five of the UK’s leading business, leisure, and entertainment venues: the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), International Convention Centre (ICC), Resorts World Arena, Arena Birmingham and the Vox Conference Centre, as well as national ticketing agency, The Ticket Factory.

In the new role, Mead will head projects related to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where NEC Group will host nine sports across three flagship events.

As chairman, Mead will work closely with NEC Group chief executive Paul Thandi on merger and acquisition opportunities, following the appointment of the Blackstone Group as NEC Group’s majority shareholder. The US private-equity giant acquired NEC Group in October in a deal reportedly worth over £800 million.

“I am proud and excited to be taking on this role and to lead the outstanding team and facilities we have in both arenas. It could hardly be a busier or more exciting time to take up this new post”

Mead remains on the board of TTF, the Group’s award-winning in-house ticketing company, and continues to advise on projects nurtured by consultancy arm NEC Group Venue Partnerships, including the transformation of the iconic former Odeon theatre in Bradford.

“This new role is a perfect fit for me,” says Mead. “On a strategic development front, the current landscape presents so many opportunities – both around growing our own venues and exploring options on a partnership and consultancy basis.”

A former chair of the UK’s National Arenas Association, Guy Dunstan has spent the last 18 years with NEC Group delivering a range of high-profile events such as BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and the redeveloping the Resorts World Arena and Arena Birmingham.

Dunstan comments: “I am proud and excited to be taking on this role and to lead the outstanding team and facilities we have in both arenas. It could hardly be a busier or more exciting time to take up this new post.”

 


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Blackstone confirms NEC Group acquisition

The Blackstone Group, a US investment firm that manages around US$440bn worth of assets, has acquired the UK’s NEC Group in a deal reportedly worth more than £800 million.

Founded in 1976 and most recently owned by the private-equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, NEC Group’s portfolio includes Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, International Convention Centre, Genting Arena and Arena Birmingham, as well as ticket agency the Ticket Factory and caterer Amadeus.

It recently posted a strong set of results for the financial year ending 31 March 2018, its third since being acquired by LBC from Birmingham City Council.

Paul Thandi, NEC Group chief executive, comments: “Blackstone’s track record in scaling companies, sector knowledge and unrivalled real estate capabilities make them the ideal new partner for NEC Group to realise the next phase of our ambitious growth strategy.

“All of our teams and partners look forward to working closely with the world-class team as we embark on becoming the definitive name in events and exhibitions, while continuing to focus on innovations and new customer experience offerings for all our customer groups.”

Blackstone used its managed private-equity funds for the acquisition, which was first reported by Sky News late on Friday. Other Blackstone investments include Versace, Leica Camera, UK exhibition organiser Clarion and US copyright collection society Sesac.

“NEC Group is iconic and we are excited about our new partnership”

Some 7m people a year pass through the 611-acre NEC site, on which Thandi has previously spoken of wish to build “Disneyland in Birmingham”.

Attendance at the group’s two arenas, Genting Arena (soon to be renamed Resorts World Arena) and Arena Birmingham, grew 17% in 2017–18, to over 1.6m, bolstered by performances by Drake, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Mickey Flanagan, John Bishop, Disney on Ice and Strictly Come Dancing.

Rival arena operator SMG is similarly private equity-owned, having been bought by a $5.7bn fund managed by Canadian firm Onex Corporation last December.

“Under the leadership of Paul Thandi, a best-in-class management team and the support of LDC, the NEC has transformed its main site into a leading leisure, entertainment and business destination, which continues to benefit from a diverse customer base,” says Lionel Assant, European head of private equity at Blackstone.

“We have tremendous respect for what has been achieved. NEC Group is iconic and we are excited about our new partnership as we look to leverage our firm’s capabilities in support of the team.”

 


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SESAC acquired by Blackstone Group

US collection and licensing society SESAC has been acquired by investment firm The Blackstone Group. Financial details were not disclosed, but the deal is expected to close by the end of March.

Blackstone is valued at $35bn and has over $361bn in assets under management in the private equity, real estate, hedge fund solutions and credit sectors. SESAC’s current owner is Rizvi Traverse Management.

Alongside ASCAP and BMI, SESAC collects and distributes money earned from public performance, mechanical and synchronisation rights in the US to songwriters and musicians.

In 2015, royalties for public performance rights collected by SESAC, BMI and ASCAP posted a growth rate of 9.1%, climbing to €6.8 billion and accounting for 78.8% of overall music-related collections, according to the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC).

SESAC Chairman and CEO John Josephson said the Blackstone deal was done “with the specific intent of backing the existing management team, and shares our long-term vision for the company with a history of adding value to their portfolio companies as a supportive strategic partner and capital provider.”

“The long-term investment horizon of [Blackstone’s] core private equity platform was especially attractive to us as we seek to execute our company’s growth strategy in our primary performance rights business, as well as mechanical rights, administrative services, multi-rights and multi-territory licensing.”

He continued: “The long-term investment horizon of their core private equity platform was especially attractive to us as we seek to execute our company’s growth strategy in our primary performance rights business, as well as mechanical rights, administrative services, multi-rights and multi-territory licensing.

“Going forward, we believe our long-term partnership with Blackstone will position SESAC well for enhanced growth and continued delivery of best in class service to our affiliates, licensees and commercial partners.”

In July last year, SESAC acquired mechanical rights organisation Harry Fox Agency. The deal reportedly makes SESAC the only music rights firm in the US with the ability to offer singular licenses for the works of its affiliated writers and publishers that aggregate both performance and mechanical rights.

Amongst SESAC’s 30,000 clients are Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, RUSH, Charli XCX (PRS), Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons (PRS), Lady Antebellum, Mariah Carey, Axl Rose, Shirley Caesar, and Robin Thicke.

 


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