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LN-MCD merger doesn’t raise competition concerns after all, says CMA

The latest phase of a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry has found that the acquisition of MCD Productions by Live Nation-Gaiety does not raise competition concerns, paving the way for regulatory approval of the long-delayed merger in the UK.

The CMA’s preliminary ‘phase-1’ inquiry found, somewhat implausibly, that a merger of Live Nation and MCD could lessen competition in Northern Ireland by restricting the ability of rival promoters to sell tickets through LN-owned Ticketmaster.

The preliminary findings of the regulator’s in-depth, ‘phase-2’ investigation, however, say the opposite: that the merger is “not likely to raise competition concerns, as Live Nation would not be expected to have the incentive to harm rival music promoters by making it harder for them to sell tickets through Ticketmaster”.

The UK competition watchdog is asking for views on its provisional findings by 28 November, with the deadline for final report set for 8 January 2020.

LN-Gaiety Holdings – 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 – remained independent of Live Nation/Gaiety.

The company is one of the big two promoters and venue operators in the Irish republic, alongside Peter Aiken’s Aiken Promotions.

The LN-MCD merger has already been cleared by the CCPC, the CMA’s counterpart in the Republic of Ireland.

 


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Ireland clears Live Nation-MCD Productions merger

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:

“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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Live Nation acquires stake in MCD Productions

LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG), the UK promotion joint venture by Live Nation and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments, has acquired Desmond’s company MCD Productions, strengthening significantly the relationship between Live Nation UK and its chairman.

Cork-born Desmond succeeded John Probyn as Live Nation’s chairman, 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.

News of MCD’s acquisition by LNG, first reported on Wednesday by Hot Press, follows that of the retirement of longtime Live Nation UK president, Paul Latham. Desmond described Latham as a “good friend”, and wished him “every happiness on his retirement”.

“Adding MCD to our successful joint venture is the logical next step in the development of LN-Gaiety Holdings”

LN-Gaiety’s UK portfolio includes stakes in Festival Republic, Academy Music Group, Mama & Company, DF Concerts, The Warehouse Project/Parklife and Isle of Wight Festival.

MCD is the largest concert promoter in Ireland and eighth biggest in the world, according to Pollstar. Recent major shows include U2, Coldplay, Guns N’ Roses and, most recently, Taylor Swift at Croke Park stadium in Dublin.

Confirming news of the takeover to IQ, a Live Nation spokesperson says: “Through our joint venture with Gaiety Investments, LN-Gaiety Holdings Ltd, we have worked with Denis Desmond for 14 years. Adding the complementary MCD Productions to our successful joint venture is the logical next step in the development of LN-Gaiety Holdings.”

 


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Live Nation buys majority stake in IoW Festival

Live Nation has acquired a controlling stake in the UK’s Isle of Wight Festival.

Through LN-Gaiety – its UK joint venture with Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments – the live entertainment giant has become the majority shareholder in the festival, adding it to its portfolio of more than 85 music festivals worldwide.

Agent and promoter John Giddings, who revived the festival in 2002 after a 32-year hiatus, will continue his leadership role.

He comments: “After 15 hugely successful and glorious years, we have been looking at how we can elevate and take the Isle of Wight Festival to the next level. This partnership with Live Nation will give us the ability to access the company’s scale and talent pool, bringing more acts and a better experience to the UK.”

“This partnership with Live Nation will give us the ability to access its scale and talent pool, bringing more acts and a better experience to the UK”

Following a 2016 in which it made eight major acquisitions, Live Nation enters 2017 having accelerated the pace of its current buying spree: The Isle of Wight deal brings its total to six in 2017 alone, after Israel’s Bluestone Entertainment, British promoters Cuffe & Taylor and Metropolis Music, Idaho-based promoter/venue owner CT Touring and the BottleRock Napa Valley music and culinary festival in California.

“John Giddings and the Solo team have developed the Isle of Wight Festival to be one of the most iconic festival brands in the world,” says Live Nation UK chairman Desmond, “and it’s fantastic to be able to add it to our growing and diverse portfolio of festivals.”

Some 42,000 festivalgoers are expected to attend Isle of Wight 2017, headlined by Rod Stewart, Arcade Fire and David Guetta and Run-DMC.

Giddings, whose Solo Agency represents Blondie, Phil Collins, U2 and Iggy Pop, won the award for best agent (Second Least Offensive Agent) at this year’s Arthur Awards in London.

 


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