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Ted King to head up content for MSG Sphere venues

Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment has announced that 35-year entertainment industry veteran, Ted King, will join the company as president of creative content and studio productions, effective from 22 June.

Prior to MSG, King served as a senior show producer for Paramont and led creative development of projects at Pictures’ Themed Entertainment. He has also served as principal of Ted King Entertainment, which he founded in 2009, and was executive producer at Granaroli Design & Entertainment, which he joined in 2011.

In his role at MSG Entertainment – MSG’s newly separated entertainment business – King will lead MSG Sphere Studios, focusing on developing content for the multi-sensory MSG Sphere venues, the first of which is being built in Las Vegas with another planned for London, pending necessary approvals.

In addition, King will work with MSG Sphere construction and MSG Ventures, the team behind the venue’s state-of-the-art technologies, to develop tools that help to maximise MSG Sphere’s immersive capabilities, which include a fully programmable LED exterior and spatial sound.

He will report to MSG Entertainment’s executive chairman and chief executive officer, James Dolan.

“Ted understands how to build powerful environments, making him ideally suited to help us unlock MSG Sphere’s potential”

“With MSG Sphere, we’re using cutting-edge technology to transform the entertainment venue and construct an entirely new platform,” says Dolan. “As an experiential storyteller, Ted understands how to build powerful environments, making him ideally suited to help us unlock MSG Sphere’s potential and create experiences that truly transport audiences.

“Ted has spent the last year as a consultant on this project, and we are thrilled to make him an official part of our MSG Entertainment family.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity to be part of an exciting vision for the future of entertainment – fully immersive experiences on a grand scale,” adds King. “I am excited to be joining the team and look forward to building on the rich legacy of the Company.”

MSG Sphere Studios, MSG Ventures and other MSG Entertainment employees will use a new, 48,500 square-foot space that MSG Entertainment is opening in Hollywood’s Burbank Studios.

The space will feature a 10,500 square-foot soundstage – originally home to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson – which is currently being transformed into a full-service studio that includes production, editing, camera testing, and recording space.

 


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MSG completes entertainment spin-off

MSG Entertainment has become a new public company, as the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) completes the spin-off of its entertainment businesses from its sports company.

The newly separate MSG Entertainment started trading on the New York stock exchange today (20 April) under the symbol MSGE, with shares opening at $68. Each MSG common stockholder received one share of MSGE Class A or B common stock for every common stock of MSG they held before the spin-off.

Former WeWork executive, Mark FitzPatrick, has been named executive vice president and chief financial officer of MSG Entertainment, with MSG’s Andrew Lustgarden serving as president of the new company.

The entertainment company retains no equity interest in MSG Sports, which now trades as MSGS, following revisions to an initial spin-off plan in November 2019.

“While the current environment presents significant challenges to our industry, we are confident in the future, and look forward to MSG Entertainment building on its reputation as a leader in live experiences,” says James Dolan, executive chairman and CEO of MSG Entertainment.

“While the current environment presents significant challenges to our industry, we are confident in the future”

“We are also very pleased to welcome Mark, a talented corporate finance executive who brings extensive experience working with well-known companies. We believe he is the ideal executive to help guide MSG Entertainment as we continue to pursue excellence across our operations.”

MSG Entertainment’s assets include New Yorks’ Madison Square Garden and the adjoining Hulu Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre and the Chicago Theatre, as well as developing the cutting-edge ‘Sphere’ arenas in Las Vegas and London.

Prior to the spin-off last month, MSG sold the 18,000-capacity Forum in Inglewood to LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in an $400 million all-cash deal.

MSGE also retains majority interesting in hospitality company Tao Group and Boston Calling Events, the producer of Boston Calling Music Festival.

Photo: Min Lee/ Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

 


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MSG moves forward with ents spin-off

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has announced that it has reached a “significant milestone” in the proposed spin-off of its entertainment business, set to take place in the first three months of 2020.

The venue giant filed an initial form 10 registration statement with US regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday (3 December), detailing the terms of the spin-off, which would split MSG into two distinct companies – one focused on sports and the other on entertainment.

Structured as a tax-free spin-off to all MSG shareholders, those directly holding shares of common stock would maintain economic interest in both businesses, with MSG executive chairman and CEO James Dolan and his family retaining majority voting control of both companies.

MSG hopes the spin-off will enable investors to evaluate the assets and opportunities of each company more clearly, with the entertainment business in particular offering chances for growth through venue expansion.

MSG hopes the spin-off will enable investors to evaluate the assets and opportunities of each company more clearly

The entertainment company would feature venues including New York’s Madison Square Garden (20,789-cap.); Hulu Theater (5,600-cap.); Radio City Music Hall (6,015-cap.); the Forum in Inglewood (17,505-cap.); and The Chicago Theatre (3,600-cap.); as well as the state-of-the-art MSG Sphere venue in Las Vegas, due to open in 2021, and a second planned Sphere in London.

In addition to its venue portfolio, the post spin-off ents business would include MSG’s booking company, which will also programme sports events; the productions sector, which includes the Radio City Rockettes and the Christmas Spectacular; and majority interests in hospitality group Tao Group Hospitality and Boston Calling Events, which organises the Boston Calling Music Festival.

The New York Knicks (basketball) and Rangers (ice hockey) sports franchises, and the Knicks Gaming esports franchise, would make up the pure-play sports company.

MSG had previously explored a spin-off which would see the entertainment company retain a one-third stake in MSG sports, but later decided there was sufficient financing for venue expansion on the entertainment side without support from the sports division.

The completion of the spin-off remains subject to conditions including final MSG board approval.

 


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MSG to look into live entertainment division spin-off

The board of directors of Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has approved plans to explore a separation of its sports and entertainment businesses into two distinct public companies.

The proposed spin-off – which would be subject to regulatory approval, and as yet has no timetable for completion – would “enable shareholders to more clearly evaluate each company’s assets and future potential, while allowing both companies to pursue their own distinct business strategy and capital allocation policy”, according to a note sent to investors.

The sports company would include MSG’s basketball teams, New York Knicks and New York Liberty, its ice-hockey team New York Rangers and two esports organisations, Knicks Gaming and Counter Logic Gaming.

The dedicated live entertainment division, meanwhile, would comprise:

The live entertainment company would also include the hotly anticipated new MSG Sphere venues in Las Vegas and London, which are expected to completed in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

MSG CEO James Dolan, who is expected to be CEO and executive chairman of both companies, comments: “We are exploring the opportunity to further create value by separating our businesses into two distinct companies. One company would be a leader in live entertainment with a growing portfolio of assets that will include the state-of-the-art music and entertainment-focused venues called MSG Sphere. The other entity would be a pure-play sports company driven by the strong financial performance of the storied Knicks and Rangers franchises.

“We believe this proposed transaction would provide each company with enhanced strategic flexibility, its own defined business focus and clear investment characteristics.”

 


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‘Everyone will have the best seat in the house’: MSG takes wraps off Sphere London

Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) president Andrew Lustgarten has reiterated the company’s ambition to grow the London market with its plans for a new arena in Stratford, which were officially launched last night at an event attended by a host of MSG execs and UK industry VIPs.

Led by MSG executive chairman Jim Dolan, the invite-only launch event at Copper Box Arena in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park gave attendees their first glimpse at the US giant’s first international venue, based on its spectacular MSG Sphere concept, for which the company hopes to submit a planning application by autumn 2018.

Dolan introduced MSG Sphere as an “intelligent venue that brings the real world and cyber world together like never before” through its combination of a fully programmable exterior; an interior bowl featuring the largest, highest-resolution media display on Earth; and an adaptive beamforming sound system that individually targets each show-goer, meaning “every guest will enjoy the best seat in the house”, he said. MSG’s new Las Vegas arena, where MSG Sphere will debut, will have 18,000 seats, MSG Sphere London’s capacity is expected to be similar.

“MSG Sphere is all about reinventing the live experience,” said Dolan, who read from Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt, which details a virtual-reality environment so real the main character can feel “the perspiration start on his brow”, to illustrate how previously science-fiction environments can eventually become reality. (Similarly, he said, Jules Verne predicted the submarine and HG Wells the atom bomb.)

“We’re going to be introducing whole new forms of entertainment”

“We’re just beginning to imagine where we’ll take our audiences,” he said. “[MSG Sphere has] the most impactful display on Earth – a fact not lost on our sponsors.

“Our intent is to engage the finest artists and content creators across the globe.”

Dolan added that while the “first Spheres will be large”, the modular design of the venue allows for a “rapid deployment across the globe” in future markets.

Immediately following presentations from Dolan, Lustgarten, MSG CTO David Dibble and MSG’s new executive VP of development and construction, Jayne McGivern, guests were invited to explore a ‘science fair’ set up elsewhere in Copper Box Arena, which featured a 150-cap. working replica of MSG Sphere along with demonstrations of the venue’s audio and VR capabilities, its haptic floor set-up and a HoloGuide ‘digital concierge’.

MSG Sphere London

A 12-metre ‘immersive theatre’ gave a taste of the experience inside MSG Sphere, showing both live action (captured on MSG’s 10 x 8k 360° camera rig) and CG content broadcast across its 16,000 x 16,000-pixel screens, while a ‘steerable sound experience’ provided a demonstration of an audio system that puts “every guest in the sweet spot”.

The HoloGuide, meanwhile, guides guests through the venue, using speech and facial recognition and a holographic display to answer frequently asked questions such as the locations of the closest F&B stands or toilets.

Speaking to IQ at the event, Lustgarten said despite its particular suitability for ‘immersive’ entertainment experiences such as esports/gaming and other video-heavy events, standard rock shows will also “work perfectly” at MSG Sphere, with its in-the-round lay-out “fabulous for regular concerts”, as well as longer residencies.

While the “first Spheres will be large”, the modular design of the venue allows for a “rapid deployment across the globe”

While Dolan said MSG aims to own “as much of IP as possible” for video content used in the Sphere, building a library which can be used in all future Sphere venues, he made clear the company is also “actively seeking strategic partnerships” with content creators – something emphasised by Lustgarten, who says MSG operates an “open venue” policy that allows “various forms of content to play: ones we own and ones we don’t”.

Lustgarten also responded to yesterday’s intervention from The O2 operator AEG, which expressed its reservations over the placing of MSG Sphere, saying there remains a “question mark over whether such a venue should be located in east London so close to existing venues at the Olympic Park – such as the London Stadium and Copper Box – as well as AEG’s own nearby venue, The O2 Arena”. The two companies are additionally engaged in a block-booking dispute, the latest twist in which saw MSG-aligned Live Nation report AEG to the UK authorities on competition grounds.

Lustgarten echoed McGivern’s remarks last month that MSG is focused on “growing the market” rather than taking market share from other operators, and said history shows that when a new venue is introduced into a healthy touring market it does just that.

“We think The O2 is an amazing venue,” said Lustgarten, “but with The O2, SSE [Arena Wembley], Hammersmith [Apollo], I’m not sure where else you’d put a new venue! Plus, we love Stratford for its connectivity: there’s tons of parking, five railway lines, Crossrail is coming…”

“When we did the Forum [MSG took over and renovated the Forum in Los Angeles in 2012], the concert business there grew by 65%,” he explained. “The market is definitely going to grow – and with MSG Sphere, we’re going to be introducing whole new forms of entertainment to London.”

 


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MSG reveals high-tech London venue plans

London is to get a striking new large-scale music and entertainment venue courtesy of Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), its first outside the US, IQ can reveal. The venue will be based on the groundbreaking MSG Sphere concept unveiled yesterday in New York and LA.

MSG Sphere – which will debut at the American venue giant’s new 18,000-seat arena in Las Vegas when it breaks ground this June – aims “to make concertgoers part of the experience” through what MSG describes as “game-changing technologies that push the limits of connectivity, acoustics, video and content distribution”.

High-tech innovations include a sound system that individually targets each seat, ensuring everyone hears the same performance, no matter their location, and – most strikingly – ultra-HD video screens that stretch across venue’s walls and ceilings, enveloping attendees in an immersive visual experience. The Vegas venue will also feature high-speed internet at every seat, allowing concertgoers to share their experience on social media and enabling interactive experiences with artists.

While the London venue is still in the early stages of planning, with no concrete details on capacity or design, the company confirms it will be based on the MSG Sphere concept.

MSG Sphere London will be located next to the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London, near the site of the 2012 Olympic games.

 


MSG says Sphere is a natural fit for EDM events

MSG says Sphere is a natural fit for EDM events


 

Madison Square Garden Company – which has long been rumoured to have an interest in London, and was believed to be in the running to buy the Olympia before its acquisition by German investors in April – has purchased nearly five acres of land in the area on which to construct the venue, says MSG CEO James Dolan.

“London is one of the world’s greatest cities, and we are delighted to be taking this first step towards making it the location for MSG’s first international venue,” he says.

The project will be overseen by Jayne McGivern, who joined MSG as executive vice-president, development and construction. McGivern’s previous executive roles have included spells as UK managing director of AEG and CEO of leading contractor Multiplex Europe, which built the new Wembley Stadium.

“We believe that a large-scale, next-generation venue will not only become a premier destination, but also drive growth in London’s overall music and entertainment market,” continues Dolan, “benefiting artists and fans and serving as a long-term investment in the future of this incredible city. MSG Sphere will provide a home where like-minded communities can come together to not only interact with the performance, but also with each other.”

“London is one of the world’s greatest cities, and we are delighted to be taking this first step towards making it the location for MSG’s first international venue”

Preliminary analysis by Ernst & Young shows MSG Sphere London will create approximately 3,200 new jobs annually, contribute £2.7bn to the UK economy over the initial 20 years of operations and generate additional revenues of more than £50m every year for local businesses.

McGivern tells IQ that since the closure of Earls Court (20,000-cap.) in 2014, London has been “underserved by big arenas” – a statement backed up by research undertaken by Sound Diplomacy which found London, Europe’s live music capital, has fewer large arenas relative to population size than other major cities, including Paris, Berlin, Madrid and New York.

Plans for a new arena in east London raise the prospect of an escalation of the much-publicised ‘venue war’ between MSG and The O2 operator AEG, although McGivern says MSG is focused on “growing the market” rather than taking market share from other operators. “It’s absolutely an opportunity to grow the market in London,” she explains. “Whenever we see new venues popping up, the market grows with them – just look at the Forum in LA.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says MSG’s confidence in the UK capital is further testament to London’s status as a “music powerhouse”. “From intimate grassroots music venues to spectacular arenas, London’s buzzing live music scene is world renowned,” he comments. “It’s great to welcome another world-class venue to the capital, to confirm London’s position as a music powerhouse and to boost still further our city’s thriving night-time economy.”

 


Audiences will be immersed in multi-sensory environments that can be "as large as the ocean"

Audiences will be immersed in multi-sensory environments that can be “as large as the ocean”


 

“It’s great news that the world-famous Madison Square Garden Company has chosen London to be home for its first international venue,” adds Britain’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Matt Hancock. “This cements both the capital and UK’s reputation for leading the world in music and the creative industries.

“This groundbreaking arena in east London will not only create jobs, but help us continue to develop incredible artists, music and innovative technology that will give fans an amazing experience.”

In addition to its plans to build in London and Las Vegas, MSG’s venues include its flagship 20,000-cap. Madison Square Garden venue in New York, along with the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; the Forum in Inglewood, California; the Chicago Theatre; and the Wang Theatre in Boston.

 


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Madison Square Garden Co appoints new president

Andrew Lustgarten has been named president of Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) following last month’s surprise exit of former president/CEO David O’Connor.

Lustgarten (pictured) joined MSG in 2014 as executive vice-president of corporate development and strategy, and has since overseen the diversification of MSG’s live offering, including its acquisitions of hospitality company TAO Group, Bosting Calling festival promoter Boston Calling Events and esports organisation Counter Logic Gaming.

Prior to joining MSG, Lustgarten spent seven years at the National Basketball Association (NBA), where he served as SVP of global strategy.

MSG’s executive chairman, James Dolan, takes over as CEO.

“Andy is the perfect person to help lead MSG at this point in its history”

“Andy is the perfect person to help lead MSG at this point in its history,” comments Dolan. “His unique experience in sports, live entertainment management and corporate development will be critically important as we continue to focus on enhancing our core businesses and identifying compelling opportunities that further our presence and influence in live experiences.”

Lustgarten adds: “MSG is unlike any other company in the world. There is so much opportunity for our incredible assets to grow and to further expand MSG’s position as the world’s leading sports and entertainment company.

“I am deeply honoured to take on this new role and look forward to working with the extraordinary people across MSG to realise the enormous potential ahead of us.”

 


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MSG CEO David O’Connor steps down

David O’Connor, the president and CEO of Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), has stepped down with immediate effect, the company has announced.

No reason was given given for the abrupt departure of O’Connor (pictured), who has led MSG since 2015, when he joined the New York-based venue giant after more than three decades at Creative Artists Agency. MSG’s executive chairman, James Dolan, will serve as interim CEO until a replacement can be found.

In addition to its eponymous 20,000-cap. New York entertainment and sports venue, Madison Square Garden Company owns Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre, also in New York, the Chicago Theatre and the Forum in Los Angeles, as well as the New York Knicks and New York Liberty basketball teams and the New York Rangers ice hockey team.

Under O’Connor’s leadership, MSG has additionally invested in esports team Counter Logic Gaming, restaurant chain Tao Group and festival promoter Boston Calling Events.

 


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