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Layoffs sweep MSG Entertainment

MSG Entertainment, which operates New York venues Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, has announced 350 layoffs, totalling a third of its corporate workforce.

Its sister company, MSG Sports, which owns basketball team, the New York Knicks, and ice hockey team, New York Rangers, is also cutting 50 jobs, or about 15% of its corporate staff.

“This was a difficult decision for both companies, as we know that our success rests on the strength of our people, who consistently set the industry standard for excellence and professionalism,” a rep for MSG Entertainment and MSG Sports told New York Post.

“This was a difficult decision for both companies, as we know that our success rests on the strength of our people”

“While we believe this is a necessary step to protect the long-term future of our businesses, we continue to actively pursue solutions that will allow us to safely reopen our doors, so we’re able to bring as many employees back as quickly as we can, once a return date for live events is established.”

According to the Post, employees affected by layoffs will receive a severance and benefit package, as well as outplacement support.

The news of the layoffs comes after MSG announced the cancellation of its annual musical holiday stage show, Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes presented at Radio City Music Hall, due to uncertainty associated with the pandemic.

The company also operates the MSG Sphere Las Vegas, which is expected to be complete in 2021, and its sister venue in London following a year later, pending approval.

 


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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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Silver Lake invests in OVG Manchester arena partner

Silver Lake, a private equity firm with stakes in a number of major live entertainment companies, has acquired a US$500 million stake in Manchester City Football Club owner City Football Group (CFG), the partner on Oak View Group’s (OVG) new arena project.

The buy-in, which sees the investor take control of more than 10% of CFG, complements the $100m investment Silver Lake made in venue development group OVG last year.

OVG is currently working in partnership with CFG on building a major new concert venue in the Eastlands area of Manchester, home to the football club’s Etihad Stadium. The arena project entered into its second round of consultation meetings yesterday (Thursday 28 November), the day after Silver Lake announced its CFG investment.

“We and Silver Lake share the strong belief in the opportunities being presented by the convergence of entertainment, sports and technology”

“We and Silver Lake share the strong belief in the opportunities being presented by the convergence of entertainment, sports and technology,” comments CFG chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

Silver Lake has invested heavily in the entertainment industry in recent years and currently owns 100% of Asia-Pacific live entertainment giant TEG, 51% of WME/UFC parent company Endeavor and 8.4% of Madison Square Garden Company.

The investor’s most recent deal places CFG at a valuation of $4.8 billion – a record for a sports group. According to the Financial Times, the $500m cash injection will help fund CFG’s acquisition of more football clubs globally, as well as the planned construction of a new stadium in New York.

 


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MSG plans full ents spin-off amid UK Sphere delays

Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) expects 2020 to be a “defining year”, as the company prepares to spin-off its entertainment businesses from its sports company and announces changes to Sphere plans.

The announcements were made in an earnings call for the first fiscal quarter of 2020, in which reported an adjusted operating loss of US$41.1 million, compared to $9.9m in Q1 2019. The company puts part of the increased losses down to “additional expenses in MSG Sphere related content and technology”.

The Sphere venues formed a major part of the conversation, with MSG president Andrew Lustgarten confirming that a 2022 opening for the 21,500-capacity London Sphere is “no longer realistic”, as the planning application process looks to continue into 2020.

“As we work through the planning application and design process, our timeline will continue to evolve,” said Lustgarten. “Therefore, we do not have a target opening date at this time.”

MSG vice chairman Gregg Seibert cited the change to the London Sphere opening plans as a reason for the company’s decision to pursue a full spin-off of its entertainment business from its sports business, resulting in no retention of equity interest in the sports company.

“We do not have a target opening date [for the London Sphere] at this time”

“Timeline for the opening of our London venue is evolving and we believe that the entertainment company will have sufficient financial flexibility to pursue its venue expansion plans without the need for the retained interest,” explained Seibert.

MSG had previously explored a spin-off of its sports and entertainment businesses into two distinct public companies, with the entertainment company retaining a one-third stake in MSG sports.

The spin-off remains subject to final approvals by the MSG board and others.

All remains on track for the original MSG Sphere to open in Las Vegas in 2021. MSG believes the venue will be “highly successful”, due to the growing demand for immersive shared experiences, Las Vegas’ positioning as “one of the world’s top entertainment destinations” and a partnership with convention-based resort specialist Las Vegas Sands.

“We expect MSG Sphere to change how we think about the entertainment experience, which is why we anticipate the Las Vegas Sphere becoming the most highly utilised venue in our portfolio.”

The first quarter of 2020 also saw MSG report a quarterly revenue of $214.8m, a 2% decrease year-on-year. The decline was attributed to the absence of a “special event” to replace the MTV Video Music Awards, which took place in Q1 2019.

 


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MSG Sphere further expands content team

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has appointed award-winning creator Keri Elmsly to the newly created role of senior vice-president, immersive development and production, in the latest addition to its content team.

Elmsly will be tasked with the development of multi-sensory and immersive elements for the MSG Sphere entertainment venues planned for Las Vegas and London. With programmable LED exteriors, the Sphere venues aim to create immersive experiences both externally and internally.

The first MSG Sphere, in Las Vegas, is expected to be completed in 2021, with its London sister venue following a year later. MSG submitted its plans for the London sphere in March, revealing it will sit on a 4.7-acre former coach park located on the site of the 2012 Olympic games, and have a seated/standing capacity up to 21,500.

Elmsly joins Disney alumni Jennifer Vogt, president of creative content and productions, and Kristina Reed, senior vice-president of creative development and strategy on the MSG Sphere content team.

“MSG Sphere represents a truly unique convergence of art and technology that will create a powerful platform for immersive storytelling”

Prior to MSG, Elmsly served as chief creative officer at Second Story, a network of experience design studios. Previously, she produced the world’s first live drone orchestra – a narrative performance with Velvet Underground founder John Cale and Liam Young – as part of London’s Barbican Centre. As an executive producer at United Visual Artists, Elmsly led projects including the kinetic installation ‘Chorus’ and the stage design for Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 tour.

“Throughout her career, Keri’s work has lived at the intersection of technology, art and immersive experiences pushing the boundaries of technology in the name of creative storytelling,” comments Vogt.

“She perfectly complements our multi-faceted team whose collective expertise spans all areas of entertainment – from live action film to animation, Broadway and more – we are creating a team of talented revolutionaries for MSG Sphere.”

“MSG Sphere represents a truly unique convergence of art and technology that will create a powerful platform for immersive storytelling,” says Elmsly. “I’m thrilled to take on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform how we interact with audiences – creating new types of experiences that encourage them to step outside of their everyday reality.”

 


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Billy Joel extends best-ever sold-out run at MSG

Billy Joel will continue his record-breaking monthly residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) on 25 January 2020.

The singer has played one show per month at the venue for the past six years, selling over one million tickets. All shows have been sold-out.

The January date marks the 72nd performance of his MSG residency and his 118th overall at the venue. Joel says he will maintain the residency “as long as the demand continues”.

Joel will continue his residency “as long as the demand continues”

In December 2013, Joel was named MSG’s first-ever music franchise, joining two other MSG mainstays – basketball team the New York Knicks and ice hockey club the New York Rangers.

Joel has been the recipient of the ASCAP Centennial Award, six Grammy Awards and a Tony Award. The singer was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Tickets for the January show will be available to buy at 10 a.m. (EST) on Friday 1 November via the Ticketmaster website.

 


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Revenue and profits up for Madison Square Garden in 2018

Posting their financial results yesterday, the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has reported strong growth in revenue and operating income in fiscal year 2018.

Over the course of the fiscal year, the group generated approximately $1.6 billion in revenue, representing an increase of some 18 per cent compared to 2017’s efforts. On top of this, the Company generated operating income of $18.9 million, an increase of $79.2 million and an adjusted operating income (AOI) of $193.8, up $96.2 million on last year’s results.

Speaking on the good fortune of the year, MSG executive chairman and CEO Jim Dolan says: “We had a solid fiscal 2018, driven by the performance of our bookings business, the Christmas Spectacular, and sponsorships.

“This past year we also took important steps to position the Company for continued growth as we unveiled our plans to build state-of-the-art venues – called MSG Sphere – in Las Vegas and London, and announced the exploration of a potential separation of our entertainment and sports businesses.

“We believe that our commitment to delivering premium live experiences for our customers and partners will continue to create long-term value for our shareholders”

“Looking ahead, we believe that our commitment to delivering premium live experiences for our customers and partners will continue to create long-term value for our shareholders.”

Somewhat deflated results were posted for the fourth quarter of 2018. Revenue increased just four per cent on the same quarter in 2017, at $318 million. Alongside this, the Company generated an operating loss of $45.4 million and an adjusted operating loss of $2.5 million, however this does represent improvements on last year’s results by 51% and 94% respectively.

The results of the two branches of the company, Madison Square Garden Sports (MSGS) and Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) were also released. MSGS revenue decreased by 26% to $132.5 million. The loss was attributed to a lack of playoff-related revenue, combined with lower basketball and hockey league distribution.

The opposite was true for MSGE, which posted revenue of $185.6, up 47% from 2017. Among the higher event-related revenue coming from the Company’s venues, including Madison Square Garden itself, the rise in revenue has been attributed to a full quarter of operating results for their club and hospitality division, TAO Group.

 


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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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Billy Joel MSG residency to hit 1m tickets sold

Billy Joel’s long-running Madison Square Garden residency has added a 55th show, set to bring the total number of tickets sold to more than a million over the course of the four-year run.

The latest concert, on 23 August 2018, is the latest in a residency that began in January 2014 and has seen the Piano Man play a show at the 20,000-capacity Garden every month since.

The shows are promoted by Madison Square Garden Company in association with AEG Presents, with tickets for the 55th date on sale next Monday (5 February) at 15.00 GMT.

Joel’s Billy Joel in Concert tour, which includes his MSG shows, was the world’s 15th highest-grossing in 2017.

 


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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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