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Viagogo sells StubHub business outside N.America

Viagogo has sold its StubHub business outside of North America – including the UK – to investment firm Digital Fuel Capital LLC for an undisclosed sum.

The sale was approved by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and completed on 3 September, after secondary ticketing giant Viagogo was forced to sell its international business due to competition concerns.

Viagogo acquired eBay’s ticketing division StubHub for $4.05 billion in cash in February 2020.

According to the CMA, a merger between the two companies would have resulted in a substantial lessening of competition in the secondary ticketing market, leading to higher prices and limited option for fans.

“We look forward to sharing more details about the integration of the two businesses”

Viagogo assuaged competition concerns by proposing the “divestment to an upfront buyer of StubHub’s European and certain other international legal entities”.

The sale of StubHub International to Digital Fuel Capital now brings the merger investigation to a close, says the CMA.

The Massachusetts-based investment firm will add StubHub International to its portfolio which consists of Artifact Uprising, Boutique Brands, BuyAutoParts, Guild Brands, National Tree Company, Outdoor Adventure Brands, Renovation Brands, RugsUSA, and Seattle Coffee Gear.

“We appreciate the CMA’s role in bringing the merger to this conclusion, and we look forward to sharing more details about the integration of the two businesses with our loyal customers and partners very soon,” says Cris Miller, VP of business development, Viagogo.

“Viagogo is a website with a long and storied history of breaking the law”

“As the live events industry emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, robust competition in the ticketing market is needed more than ever and Viagogo will continue to take its essential role in the live events industry very seriously. Viagogo and StubHub will always remain committed to working with regulators, while providing safe and secure platforms for people to buy and sell tickets to events all over the world.”

In 2021 so far, Viagogo has been investigated for violating laws in countries including Austria, Italy and Australia.

Adam Webb, campaign manager at FanFair Alliance, an anti-touting campaign group, says: “Good luck to Digital Fuel Capital. For their sake, I hope they didn’t pay very much.

“Viagogo is a website with a long and storied history of breaking the law and that’s dominated by large-scale touts and non-existent tickets.”

 


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Oak View Group to merge with Spectra

Oak View Group (OVG) has announced plans to merge with Spectra, a Philadelphia-based venue management firm with arenas, stadia, theatres and convention centres across North America.

Founded in 2015 by industry veterans Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff, OVG specialises in property development and financing, sponsorship and partnerships and venue operation and security, while Spectra provides management, consultancy and hospitality services to its partner venues. The merger of the pair, terms of which were not disclosed, creates a “full-service” company with complementary specialities, according to Leiweke, the former AEG CEO who now serves in the same role at OVG.

“This merger brings together two dynamic leaders in the live events industry with complementary capabilities that will deliver a broad array of services to our clients,” says Leiweke. “OVG’s core competencies in arena development and corporate sponsorships, coupled with Spectra’s leadership in food and beverage services, will create a full-service live events company that will deliver a compelling and highly competitive set of offerings that meet our clients’ evolving needs.

“I look forward to collaborating with the talented team at Spectra and bringing together our two organisations to create something truly unique.”

“This merger brings together two dynamic leaders in the live events industry with complementary capabilities”

Dave Scott, CEO of Spectra, adds: “This is an exciting development for Spectra and an important step in our journey to provide unparallelled services to our clients along with exciting growth opportunities for our team members as part of a larger, more diverse organisation. This merger accelerates our existing strategy and will lead to significant opportunities to cross-sell food, beverage and sponsorship services across our combined client base.

“I look forward to working with Tim, Irving and the OVG team to enhance the future of live events for our valued clients.”

Following completion of the merger, which is expected in the fourth quarter of this 2021 (subject to regulatory approvals and other conditions), OVG will remain headquartered in Los Angeles and Spectra in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Spectra offers venue management, food services and hospitality, and partnerships services for 330 clients in the US and Canada, including stadia, arenas, convention centres, performing arts centres, fairgrounds and casinos, as well as Singapore Sports Hub in south-east Asia. OVG, which has six arenas under construction, including Co-op Live in Manchester, UK, recently inked a global ticketing deal with Ticketmaster.

 


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Rock-it Cargo and Sound Moves join forces

Rock-it Cargo and Sound Moves, two of the leading providers of logistics to the global live touring industry, are coming together under a single corporate entity, Rock-it Global.

The US-based Rock-it Cargo and UK-based Sound Moves are both subsidiaries of Rock-it Cargo USA, backed by ATL Partners, which remains the sole private equity partner and the majority shareholder.

Rock-it Global will merge the office and vendor networks of both subsidiaries to offer a combined seven decades’ worth of expertise. The company plans to unveil new branding and a newly assembled leadership team in the spring.

“It’s time to get excited about the future, come together and be the best we can be, jump on all the pent-up energy and optimism of a new year, successful vaccines and the shared will of our client base to get back to business. Let’s get this show on the road,” says Duane Wood, president and CEO, Sound Moves.

Paul Martins, Rock-it Cargo, CEO and president, says: “This coming together is something long in the making. We devoted significant time and effort to bring this to fruition. “I’m also extremely pleased that Duane Wood, founder and CEO of Sound Moves is joining the executive team as chief strategy officer. His experience leading Sound Moves will be a remarkable asset to the new combined company as well as the entire group of companies under our umbrella.”

“When you’ve got the best operators in the world functioning in two different silos, you need to bring that power together”

“Same people, same phone numbers, same email addresses, same great experiences, it makes sense,” Martins continues. “When you’ve got the best operators in the world functioning in two different silos, you need to bring that power together to create an unbeatable organization that can provide tailored solutions for critical projects anywhere in the world, delivering for our customers the ultimate peace of mind.”

David Bernstein, non-executive chairman of the board of Rock-it Cargo Holdings, says: “We’ve reorganised Rock-it in a way that we believe will provide for the best customer experience and expertise available in global entertainment logistics.”

“The time our people have been off the road has allowed us to internally assess our strengths and ask how we could be stronger and more prepared when our clients signalled it would be time to get back out. This move positions us for what lies ahead.”

Sound Moves recently spoke to IQ about post-Brexit changes on the carnet system within Europe. Read the feature here.

The impact of the reintroduction of ATA Carnets, alongside new cabotage rules, will be discussed during the panel Trucking Hell! Is it really that bad? at this year’s ILMC Production Meeting on Tuesday 2 March.

 


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Viagogo offers to sell parts of StubHub in merger bid

Viagogo is offering to sell StubHub’s resale business outside of North America in a bid to address concerns expressed by the UK’s competition watchdog which has provisionally halted the $4 billion (£3bn) merger.

UK watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), recently found that the acquisition of StubHub by Viagogo will reduce competition in an “already very concentrated market”, throwing into doubt the fate of the already completed deal in the UK.

Now, Viagogo is proposing the sale of StubHub’s holding company, which operates all of its international primary and secondary businesses, including its UK operations, in a bid to address the CMA’s concerns – though the deal would see Viagogo retain StubHub’s much larger US and Canadian ticket resale business.

“There are some glaring concerns with their reported proposal, which appears to suggest a three-year lease not an outright sale”

Under the sale, the buyer of StubHub’s operations would receive customer and transaction data in the UK and beyond as well as the Spain-based Ticketbis, which was sold to StubHub in 2016 for a reported €165m.

The proposal also states that the buyer would be allowed to use the StubHub UK brand for three years, followed by a year-long “blackout” where neither the buyer nor Viagogo could use the StubHub brand in Britain.

Adam Webb, campaign manager for anti-ticket touting group FanFair Alliance, told IQ: “Viagogo is a discredited business that’s been at the heart of a major ticket mis-selling scandal, ripping off UK audiences to the tune of millions. The operators of this platform cannot be trusted. Even on initial glance, there are some glaring concerns with their reported proposal, which appears to suggest a three-year lease of StubHub UK’s business – not an outright sale. We have already raised these concerns with the CMA.”

While a Viagogo spokesperson says: “We look forward to working with the CMA to deliver a comprehensive solution which addresses their concerns and we believe this proposal would achieve that.”

 


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Live Nation shares up 10% post DOJ settlement

Live Nation’s share price rose by US$6.79 to $70.60 yesterday (Thursday 19 December) following news that it had reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) over antitrust allegations.

The DOJ had opened investigations into Live Nation last Friday over concerns that the company had violated the terms of a decree governing its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster.

Both Live Nation and Ticketmaster refuted all allegations of anti-competitive practice.

As part of the settlement, the DOJ is extending and modifying the decree that permits the merger, and which was set to expire next year, until 2025. The justice department calls the agreement the “most significant enforcement action of an antitrust decree in 20 years”.

Following the news, Live Nation’s stock, which had dropped to around $64 per share following news of the DOJ investigation, rebounded to the levels it had been trading at before, jumping almost 10% to just over $70. Shares remained up at $69.83 at the time of writing.

“We believe this is the best outcome for our business, clients and shareholders as we turn our focus to 2020 initiatives”

“We have reached an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice to extend and clarify the consent decree,” comments a Live Nation spokesperson. “We believe this is the best outcome for our business, clients and shareholders as we turn our focus to 2020 initiatives.”

Under the terms of the modified agreement, Live Nation is prohibited from pressuring venues to use Ticketmaster and from withholding shows from a venue if it chooses to go with another ticketer. An independent party will monitor Live Nation’s compliance with the decree, and a $1 million fine will be levied for any violation of the agreement.

“When Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, the Department of Justice and the federal court imposed conditions on the company in order to preserve and promote ticketing competition,” says assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

“Today’s enforcement action including the addition of language on retaliation and conditioning will ensure that American consumers get the benefit of the bargain that the United States and Live Nation agreed to in 2010. Merging parties will be held to their promises and the Department will not tolerate transgressions that hurt the American consumer.”

The full DOJ statement can be read here.

 


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AEG Facilities, SMG merge: ASM Global is born

AEG’s venue management arm, AEG Facilities, and Onex-owned SMG announced today (1 October) that they have completed their merger to create a single global facility management and venue services company, ASM Global.

The companies, which between them operate and run many of the world’s most important large entertainment venues, first announced their intention to merge in February. The completion of the merger comes following the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority approval of the deal in September.

ASM, headquartered in Los Angeles, has key operations based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, as well as offices in London and Manchester, England; Brisbane, Australia; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

ASM’s portfolio includes Sydney ANZ Stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena, Manchester Arena and Lausanne’s Vaudoise Arena, as well as convention and exhibition centres, performing arts centres and theatres. Overall, the company will operate more than 300 facilities across five continents.

Some AEG-owned venues, including the O2 Arena in London and the AccorHotel Arena in Paris, remain under AEG control do not currently feature in the ASM portfolio online. The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and Los Angeles’ Staples Center, which were previously thought to be excluded from the deal, are included in ASM’s portfolio.

Bob Newman, former president of AEG Facilities, has been named president and CEO of ASM, effective immediately. Prior to joining AEG Facilities, Newman spent more than 20 years at SMG, last serving as a regional vice president for the company. Wes Westley, former CEO and president of SMG, will focus on strategic growth initiatives and facilitating the integration process.

“This marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our industry and one that will establish a new standard of excellence in managing live experiences”

“This marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our industry and one that will establish a new standard of excellence in managing live experiences,” comments Newman.

“Bringing together the combined global expertise of each company with the best content and cutting-edge technologies, we will be able to realise the full potential of the world’s greatest spaces, places and events, create amazing experiences for guests, offer exciting new opportunities to employees and deliver the highest value for all stakeholders. Equally important, our deep bench of talent and shared resources will enable ASM to accelerate innovation and capitalise on the growing market opportunities.”

Westley adds: “I am very proud to have had the opportunity to lead such an incredible organisation as SMG. We have a long history of working closely with our public and private partners and are confident in our ability to continue to meet and exceed their expectations.

“ASM’s focus moving forward will be on providing added value and best-in-class services to its customers.”

Onex, AEG and their respective affiliates are contributing their entire equity investments in SMG and AEG Facilities, respectively, and are now equal co-owners of ASM.

 


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Three Dutch venues to merge

The operators of three Dutch venues have announced a merger.

Popular music venue W2 Poppodium (500-cap.), experimental/classical music venue De Toonzaal (120-cap.) and music and visual arts centre Willem II Fabriek, all in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (colloquially Den Bosch), will pool resources as of January 2017, allowing for “more flexibility and stability” and reduced overheads, says the W2.

The merger was prompted by Den Bosch city council’s recent announcement that it would slash Toonzaal’s funding by €154,000 in 2017.

As well as financial security, the three say joining forces will allow members of the public to “more easily come into contact with other disciplines, allowing for easier cross-pollination” between the venues’ respective niches.

 


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UK agencies merge

Two British boutique booking agencies have announced a merger.

Regent Music, which represents Lindisfarne, The Paperboys and, outside the UK, Fairport Convention, and Adastra, whose roster includes Lonnie Donegan, Jacqui Dankworth and The Bootleg Beatles, have become Strada Music.

Led by partners Chris Wade and Phil Simpson, the combined company’s agents Graham Smout, Polly Bolton and Leila Cooper will work a roster including over 80 folk, roots, jazz, Americana and world music acts.

“It’s a very exciting prospect,” says Phil Simpson, who founded Regent Music in 2012 and oversaw its merger with GPS Music in 2014. “Not only have we all been friends for years, but when you’re able to collaborate, pool resources and share costs we have the opportunity to make something very special indeed.”

Wade, who founded Adastra in 1987 and was also instrumental in setting up Beverley Folk Festival, adds: “I am very excited about this fantastic new merger, which will enable us to continue to represent our artists in the excellent way for which we have become known, as well as expanding the roster of artists we are able to represent.

“We are now also branching out more into the jazz and classical genres, with recent signings including Jacqui Dankworth who will be among good company alongside the likes of Martin Taylor and Juan Martin, who we have a long history of representation for.”

Strada Music is based at the former Adastra HQ in North Dalton, Yorkshire.

 


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Judge hands early victory to TM in Songkick suit

A judge has denied Songkick’s request for a temporary injunction in its court battle with Ticketmaster, handing a victory to the Live Nation-owned ticketing giant as it defends itself against allegations of anti-competitive behaviour.

A preliminary injunction such as the one sought by Songkick preserves the status quo by preventing the other party from pursuing a particular course of action until the court’s final decision, and may only be granted if the party requesting it shows that they will suffer irreparable harm to their case unless the injunction is issued.

Dale S. Fischer, a judge of the US District Court of Central California, said yesterday that the UK-headquartered ticket outlet and concert discovery service had “failed to show virtually any likelihood of success on the merits and has only made a weak showing, at best, as to irreparable harm.”

Judge Fischer also granted a motion by Live Nation to dismiss portions of the lawsuit which challenge Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s 2010 merger, which was approved by the US justice department at the time.

Songkick’s lawsuit against Live Nation was filed in Los Angeles on 22 December. It alleges that the promoter and its Ticketmaster subsidiary have “exploited their monopoly power” to stifle competition by attempting to force the company to pay service fees for artist-to-fan presales and intimidating concert venues and artists into not working with Songkick and other rival ticket outlets.

“Songkick will continue with its legal case and remains committed to providing artists with an alternative that puts tickets in the hands of fans at a lower cost and helps keep them out of the hands of touts”

In response to Judge Fischer’s ruling, Songkick issued the following statement to IQ:

“Songkick is disappointed that the court dismissed one of its eight claims for relief but the dismissal of the merger claims in no way affects the remaining seven claims for relief that include the conspiracy in restraint of trade, monopolisation and attempt to monopolise, unfair competition, intentional interference with contracts and intentional interference with prospective economic relations – claims that are unrelated to the 2010 Ticketmaster merger with Live Nation. The court also gave Songkick the right to seek to amend its complaint to reinstate its merger claims based on several acquisitions that occurred after the Live Nation merger.

“The court’s denial of Songkick’s preliminary injunction motion is unfortunate for artists and their fans. In its motion, Songkick explains how Ticketmaster is trying to charge its egregious service fees on tickets it isn’t even selling. Songkick filed this preliminary action in order to protect fans who choose to buy tickets directly from the artists they love (ie not from Ticketmaster) from Ticketmaster’s attempts to impose those egregious fees everywhere. Songkick notes that preliminary injunctions are discretionary and rarely granted, and that the findings are not binding on the court for later proceedings.

“Songkick is also heartened that the court rejected Ticketmaster’s self-serving interpretation of its contracts with venues and instead held that there is generally a carve-out from Ticketmaster’s exclusive contracts with venues for the sale of ‘house seats’, including fan club presales, outside of the Ticketmaster system.

“As the nation’s biggest promoter, ticket vendor, festival owner, presale ticketing provider and manager of artists, Live Nation has overwhelming control over how fans experience live music – and the price they pay for it. Songkick will continue with its legal case and remains committed to providing artists with an alternative that puts tickets in the hands of fans at a lower cost and helps keep them out of the hands of scalpers.”