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Tait to open central London base

Tait, the global creative engineering group for live experiences, is set to open a central London base in 2024.

The Pennsylvania-headquartered company, backed by Providence Equity, designs, constructs, manufactures and operates stages and installations for clients including Taylor Swift, Cirque Du Soleil, Royal Opera House, NASA, National Geographic, Beyoncé and The Olympics.

The new office in Tileyard (also home to IQ and ILMC), Kings Cross, follows the company’s expansion in the UK, with a presence that includes factories in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and Haverhill, Suffolk, as well as training and R&D facilities in Hampton.

“Locally, it means we have a central point for the UK’s talented design houses and celebrated theatres, especially in London’s West End”

The UK offshoot was born through strategic acquisitions of Stage Technologies, Delstar, Brilliant Stages and Kinesys, resulting in experiences ranging from the flying car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Royal Opera House to the Rolling Stones; the Olympics to Outernet.

Founded in 1978 at Tait Towers, the company has grown to 20 offices worldwide that work across concert touring, permanent and touring theatre, cruise ships, performance venues, brand and location-based experiences.

“We’re creating this central London base to support our work across the UK, Europe and Worldwide,” says Ben Brooks, Managing Director UK, TAIT.

“We’re proud to be part of the live experience community, and this new space will support our work with partners across the globe. Locally, it means we have a central point for the UK’s talented design houses and celebrated theatres, especially in London’s West End. It’s also two hours from our sites in West Yorkshire and Suffolk”. ​ ​

 


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Providence Equity takes stake in Sphere designer

Providence Equity Partners has acquired a minority stake in Populous, an architectural and design firm for sports and entertainment venues.

Providence, which already backs Superstruct, Wasserman and Ambassador Theatre Group, says the acquisition “fits squarely with [our] focus on sports, entertainment and live events businesses”.

Founded in 1983 as HOK Sports Facilities Group, Populous’s portfolio spans 3,000 projects including Yankee Stadium in New York, Wembley Stadium in London, Stadium Australia and every Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games since 1996.

The firm’s portfolio also boasts the $2.3 billion Las Vegas Sphere (cap. 18,600), which officially opened on 29 September with U2’s residency.

Providence’s investment in Populous is subject to customary regulatory approvals and financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Populous has established an exceptional reputation for designing vibrant entertainment destinations”

Populous will continue to be led by one of its founders and global chair, Earl Santee, and its existing leadership.

“As our industry continues to evolve, we believe this partnership will enable greater integration and expansion of our global business,” says Santee. “Providence has a strong track record of supporting the success of businesses that deliver world-class events and experiences, and we believe their expertise will further accelerate our momentum and enable us to capitalize on additional growth opportunities while retaining the core values and culture that are integral to Populous.”

Scott Marimow, a managing director at Providence, adds: “Over the last 40 years, Populous has established an exceptional reputation for designing vibrant entertainment destinations that create unforgettable experiences for fans, spectators and communities worldwide.

“We have been impressed by the differentiated business and culture that Earl and his team have built, as well as its world-class portfolio of projects for some of the most iconic names in sports and entertainment. We believe Populous is well positioned for continued, sustainable growth and will benefit from consumer demand for live entertainment and increased infrastructure investment by venue owners seeking to create new and innovative environments and experiences.”

The Providence deal was announced after Monday’s news that Pennsylvania State University had selected Populous to design a multi-year renovation of Beaver Stadium (cap. 106,000), the second-largest stadium in the US.

 


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Superstruct UK forges deal with resale platform Tixel

Superstruct UK festivals has enlisted Tixel as the exclusive resale platform for a number of its domestic events including Bluedot, Boardmasters, Christmas at Bute Park, Kendal Calling, NASS, Tramlines Festival, Truck Festival and Y Not Festival.

The partnership includes direct technology integrations that will facilitate functions like real-time, accurate ticket validation on all tickets listed (eliminating fakes and/or speculative listings) and the ability for a buyer to list and sell a ticket before ticket barcodes have been distributed.

“We are delighted to announce our partnership with Tixel, which demonstrates the strength and scale of our UK portfolio of festivals and their commitment to enhancing the customer experience,” says Chris McCormick, UK festival’s band partnerships director.

“[This deal] demonstrates the strength and scale of our UK portfolio of festivals and their commitment to enhancing the customer experience”

“Today’s ticket buyer is different to who they were three years ago,” says Tixel CEO Zac Leigh. “We’re much more used to digital and in-app purchasing and around 80% of us say that we’re more likely to buy a ticket if we know that we can easily resell it later. We love that our festival partners are embracing the new behaviours of today’s festival-goers in an effort to super-serve their attendees, and we’re excited to help them do that.”

Founded in Australia in 2018, Tixel’s partners include leading festivals and promoters such as Beyond the Valley, Strawberry Fields, and Corner Hotel, artists such as Tame Impala, and primary ticketing platforms Eventbrite, Eventix, and Oztix. The company officially launched UK operations in late 2021.

Superstruct Entertainment has amassed over 85 festivals in Europe and Australia, making it the second-largest festival promoter in the world after Live Nation. Outside of the UK, the Providence Equity Partners-backed company owns festivals such as Elrow (ES), Sziget (HU), Wacken Open Air (DE), Mysteryland (NL), Hideout (HR), Sonar (ES) and Flow (FI).

 


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Meet the world’s second-largest festival promoter

The global Covid-19 pandemic may have brought a halt to music festivals worldwide, but for one firm in the space, it only accelerated an already energetic acquisition schedule. And for such a monumental shift in market share across the festival business, it’s a roll-up that has taken place with barely a press release issued, or comment given.

According to research conducted by IQ, Superstruct Entertainment has now amassed over 85 festivals in Europe and Australia, which makes it the second-largest festival promoter in the world after Live Nation.

Superstruct Entertainment was founded in 2017 by Creamfields founder and former Live Nation president of electronic music James Barton and Roderik Schlosser whilst at Providence Equity Partners.

At the time, Barton said: “The relationship with Providence is – it’s an easy pitch. To bring a level of professionalism and organisation to what we’re trying to do, to try and be not just the most creative festival platform out there but the best run.”

Superstruct has a presence in at least eight markets including the UK, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Australia.

Superstruct has a presence in the UK, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Australia

In the UK, it has interests in Y NotTruckNassBlue Dot, Victorious, South West Four, Kendal Calling, Tramlines, Boardmasters and Lost Ventures – many of which were acquired when Global’s portfolio was divvied up in April 2019.

Elsewhere in Europe, the company’s network includes leading operators and festivals such as Elrow (ES), Sziget (HU), Wacken Open Air (DE), Mysteryland (NL), Hideout (HR), Sonar (ES), Flow (FI), Defqon1 (NL), Parookaville (DE), Zwarte Cross (NL), Arenal Sound (ES), Øya (NO), O Son do Camiño (ES) and Tinderbox (DK).

Its most recent acquisition, and the first of 2023, was The Music Republic, the Valencia-based organiser behind iconic Spanish festivals Arenal Sound and Benicàssim (FIB).

IQ also understands that Superstruct has an interest in 10–12 festivals in Australia, some of which operate under the same brand.

Alongside festivals, the live entertainment behemoth also owns festival travel and accommodation companies such as Festival Travel and Liffin, both of which are based in the Netherlands.

“[Superstruct] has a commitment to building a strong portfolio of live entertainment brands”

While neither Schlosser nor Barton has rarely spoken publicly about Superstruct’s ambitions, the latter of the two referenced a “commitment to building a strong portfolio of live entertainment brands… and supporting the different festivals in their growth in their respective markets” upon the acquisition of Global’s festival arm in 2019.

And in 2021 they said the ID&T acquisition reflected Superstruct’s “deep conviction in the value of experience-focused live music festivals and our excitement about the significant joint growth opportunities that lie ahead as live events return”.

Superstruct Entertainment is headquartered in Kensington, west London, and employs more than 30 people. The company is directed by Schlosser as CEO and Barton as chairman.

Providence Equity is a global asset management firm with $32 billion aggregate in private equity capital commitments. Since the firm’s inception in 1989, Providence has invested in more than 170 companies spanning media, communications, entertainment, software, and services industries across North America and Europe.

Providence is headquartered in Providence (Rhode Island, US) and also has offices in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Delhi.

Superstruct Entertainment declined to comment on this article.

 


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Providence buys into music retailer Sweetwater

Providence Equity Partners, the private-equity owner of live entertainment firms including Superstruct Entertainment, Ambassador Theatre Group and Tait (Towers), has bought into Sweetwater, the leading US retailer of musical instruments and audio equipment.

Terms of the transaction, which sees funds advised by Provide make a “strategic investment” in Sweetwater, were not disclosed.

Founded in 1979 by Chuck Surack, Sweetwater now turns over more than US$1 billion annually and has served over 1.5 million unique customers. “I am incredibly proud of the growth our company achieved over the last year, which would not have been possible without the dedication of our employees and world-class team of music gear experts,” comments Surack (pictured). “I am confident this growth equity investment will allow us to reach new heights and further our mission of enabling customers to make music and pursue their dreams.”

Other music-industry investments by Providence include software firm Impact, the UK’s Brilliant Stages (via Tait) and, formerly, Greencopper parent company Patron Technology, which it sold last year. Its festival division, Superstruct, recently acquired Dutch event Zwarte Cross, in its first acquisition since before the pandemic.

“We believe the company is well-positioned for sustainable growth as live events return”

“Providence is a great partner to continue our momentum and take Sweetwater to the next level,” says John Hopkins, Sweetwater’s COO. “As the world emerges from the pandemic, we believe the firm’s strong track record of helping music-related businesses accelerate their growth will be invaluable.

“The Providence team appreciates what makes Sweetwater different and we are aligned on how we can further leverage our unique culture to capitalise on new opportunities that create even better customer experiences.”

Scott Marimow, managing director of Providence, comments: “Sweetwater’s status as an online industry leader is a direct result of its unique culture and dedication to customer service. We believe the company is well-positioned for sustainable growth as live events return and artists and entertainment companies look to provide the memorable experiences that have been absent over the past year and a half.

“We are excited to partner with such a culture-driven company and look forward to working with Chuck and team to grow the business together.”

 


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TEG invests in Ambassador Theatre Group

Sydney-based live entertainment group TEG has acquired a minority stake in West End theatre operator Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG).

ATG, which is majority owned by Providence Equity Partners (Superstruct Entertainment, Tait), owns or manages around 50 venues globally, including many of London’s best-known theatres. Its portfolio includes the Savoy and Lyceum theatres in London, the Lyric and Hudson in New York, and a growing stable of UK music venues, including the upcoming Stockton Globe and Swansea Arena.

In conjunction with Providence, which paid £350 million for ATG in 2013, TEG – itself owned by a private-equity firm, Silver Lake – will reportedly inject £160m in new equity into ATG as UK theatres tentatively reopen.

It is the first acquisition for TEG – a ticketing, touring and venues company with offices across the Asia-Pacific region – in the UK since its buy-out of the former MJR Group last year. The company hired a new director of M&A in May.

In addition to its venue portfolio, ATG operates the UK’s most visited theatre website, ATGtickets.com, selling around 11 million tickets a year pre-coronavirus. The London-based company, which employs around 4,000 people, laid off 1,200 casual staff earlier this month.

 


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Patron Technology sold to PE firm Vector Capital

San Francisco-based private-equity firm Vector Capital has acquired Patron Technology, the company behind Greencopper, Marcato and several other familiar event technology products.

Vector, which specialises in investing in established technology businesses, says all Patron staff remain in place and will continue to operate the company on a day-to-day basis. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Vector manages nearly US$4 billion worth of investments.

“With Patron Technology, we saw an opportunity to back the leading platform and a seasoned management team as they successfully navigate unprecedented, Covid-induced market disruption in the live events industry,” comments Rob Amen, managing director of Vector Capital.

“Vector excels at investing during volatile times, and our thesis is that only the best products and most talented executives will survive this dislocation and emerge as market leaders. We are confident that our growth investment will enable Patron Technology to not only outlast this global pandemic but become stronger on the other side of it.”

Patron Technology, formerly known as PatronManager, has spent the past few years buying up various event technology companies, including app developers, ticket sellers and event management platforms. Its portfolio includes festival app company Greencopper, event management software developer Marcato, RFID provider Token and ticketing software firms ShowClix, Ticketleap, Ticketbooth and GrowTix.

“Vector excels at investing during volatile times”

The company was formerly majority owned by Providence Equity Partners (whose other live industry investments include Superstruct Entertainment, Tait Towers and Ambassador Theatre Group).

Marc Jenkins, CEO of Patron Technology, says: “This is an exciting and important day in our company’s history. It kicks off a fresh, new partnership alongside the thoughtful investment team at Vector. We are eager to work with them to propel the business through the age of social distancing and beyond.

“I’m extremely proud to be part of such an amazing team, past and present, that works tirelessly to serve our world-class clients.”

“With a great set of products, a strong balance sheet and an unparallelled management team, Patron Technology is well positioned to grow over the coming years,” adds Vector Capital vice-president Tom Smith.

“We look forward to partnering with Marc and his team as they continue to grow from this new position of strength and renewed investment.”

 


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Buying and selling for beginners: Mayland CEO talks industry M&A

Investments and takeovers are the core business of Matthias Just, CEO of Mayland AG. Before becoming a lawyer Just completed an apprenticeship as a banker, and his CV includes positions in the UK and US at companies including Deloitte and Touche Corporate Finance.

Since the end of 2005, he has been a member of the board of Mayland AG, a Dusseldorf-based company specialising in mergers and acquisitions – including the likes of the takeover of Parookaville by Superstruct, whose portfolio also includes Flow Festival, Sonar, Sziget and Wacken Open Air, and is backed by Providence Equity Partners, which manages more than $45 billion worth of investments.

IQ spoke to Just (pictured) about why the live music industry is increasingly attractive to institutional investors – as well as how external investment companies can offer a compelling alternative to the major multinational concert businesses…

 


IQ: What is the external perception of the live music industry in the financial sector?
Matthias Just
: The live music industry is growing and a stabilisation of turnover and profitability figures can be seen across most companies. Besides this, there are always new festivals that draw attention to themselves through innovative concepts and designs and are able to assert themselves in the market. In general, demand is still very high, despite increasingly high ticket prices.

In recent years, we have noticed that consumers in the leisure and entertainment sector have seldom been price-sensitive and are prepared to pay higher ticket prices in order to spend a weekend at their favourite festival. This willingness to pay is what distinguishes this industry and makes it interesting for strategic investors, as well as financial investors and corporate holdings.

On the other hand, what is the current situation of the financial market in terms of potential investors and investments?
It was inevitable that Brexit, the [US-China] trade dispute and the signs of an imminent recession would not leave investors unscathed. Therefore, we can perceive a slight increase in uncertainty across the market as a whole, which will – should the signs of an economic downturn become clearer in the coming months – lead to a reallocation of investors’ investment focus.

In this sense, this means that companies in a sector that is independent of economic cycles – such as the events market – will be given preference over cyclical investments, which generally tend to be negatively affected in times of recession.

“This willingness to pay is what distinguishes this industry and makes it interesting for strategic investors”

What role does Mayland play in the M&A process?
We see ourselves both as consultants and coordinators. Within an M&A transaction, on which we act both on the buyer and seller side, we coordinate all necessary services in order to achieve a successful conclusion of the transaction. In addition to classic sell- or buy-side M&A advice, our range of services also include succession planning, financial advice, company valuation and strategic business development.

There are many in the concert industry who worry about the involvement of external investment companies. Are they right to be concerned?
These reservations about external investment stem from the public debates about the financial sector due to the financial crisis in 2008. Also, various companies have been forced to cut jobs after an investment company had joined them – and even today, some entrepreneurs still face a loss of control when taking an investment on – but this process is anything but inevitable.

While anyone who sells shares in a company loses some control, the manner in which this transfer of control takes place is an important factor that a seller can influence significantly before the transaction is completed – a crucial point at which we come into game and, together with the current owner and management of a company, determine how this transfer should be structured from the seller’s point of view.

There are many understandable motives for dealing with the topic of participation [from the investment sector] from the entrepreneur’s point of view. However, those who are not familiar with participation systems and legal framework conditions should take on professional support, even in the case of a first initial meeting with a potential buyer.

“Companies in a sector that is independent of economic cycles – such as the events market – will be given preference over cyclical investments”

In one sense, AEG, CTS Eventim and Live Nation are investors, too. Aren’t these companies the better investors than those who have little or no industry knowledge?
In terms of strategic fit, these players in the industry are certainly good candidates – concert companies or festivals can benefit from the networks of these companies and partially improve their operative business. On the other hand, these investors usually require a majority stake (usually more than 50% – ie a qualified majority with which they can enforce all strategic decisions), which means that the seller can lose control of his or her festival, at least in the legal sense.

For smaller companies that are looking for a strategic partner, but do not want to give up control over their business, other strategic investors or financial investors may be the better alternative.

Providence Equity, as a financier of Superstruct, is a prominent player in concert takeovers. Do you expect other big players from the private-equity sector to increasingly be interested in the live music industry in the future?
That’s quite possible. However, Providence Equity’s Superstruct vehicle and its managers [including CEO James Barton, ex-Creamfields/Live Nation] are industry experts who know the festival business very well and usually have experience as festival organisers themselves.

This expertise is particularly important in an industry such as live entertainment, because the structures are special and personal aspects play a meaningful role.

However, in addition to Providence, there are many other investment companies with a strong interest in the festival industry.

 


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ATG expands into UK arenas with new Swansea venue

The construction of a new 3,500-capacity arena in Swansea, Wales, began today (Wednesday 27 November) as part of a £1 billion regeneration of the city centre.

Swansea Arena, opening in 2021, is the latest live music venue in the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) portfolio, in addition to the Stockton Globe, which is reopening next year.

With almost 50 entertainment venues, Providence Equity-backed ATG hosts acts including Pet Shop Boys, Snow Patrol and Emeli Sandé in the UK, Lionel Richie, Al Green, Lauryn Hill and Lenny Kravitz in the US and Bonnie Tyler, FKA Twigs and Sinead O’Connor in Germany.

ATG also operates the UK’s most visited theatre website ATGtickets.com and overall sells around 11 million tickets a year.

“ATG has nearly 30 years’ experience of managing venues but this is an exciting moment that sees us expanding our portfolio to UK arenas”

“We have been working with Swansea Council for a period of time now to make the Arena a world class venue for music, comedy, conferencing and events in South Wales,” comments Mark Cornell, CEO of ATG.

“ATG has nearly 30 years’ experience of working with councils and managing venues but this is an exciting moment that sees us expanding our portfolio to UK arenas following our success across the UK, US and Germany.”

“Swansea Arena is an incredibly exciting addition to ATG,” adds Katy Arnander (pictured), ATG content development director. “The new arena will be at the forefront of our music, comedy, events and exhibitions strategy as well as presenting new content like gaming and esports which is a perfect fit for such a technologically advanced arena.”

The arena is funded by Swansea Council and part-funded by the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal.

For update of when tickets go on sale at Swansea Arena, join the mailing list here.

 


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Superstruct buys into Wacken promoter ICS

Superstruct Entertainment has invested in Germany’s International Concert Service (ICS), adding leading metal event Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) to its stable of European festivals.

The Superstruct-ICS deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is structured as an “investment and partnership agreement”, in which each company invests in the other, according to Superstruct. The company has similar arrangements with Norway’s Øya Festival, acquired last August, and, more recently, Next Events, the company behind German hip-hop festival Parookaville.

In addition to W:O:A, its flagship festival, ICS produces and promotes ancillary events including Hamburg Metal Dayz, Wacken Winter Nights and motorsports and music festival Werner Race.

ICS founders Holger Hübner and Thomas Jensen, and the current leadership team, will remain in place after the transaction (the terms of which were not disclosed) closes.

In a joint statement, the pair say: “Joining the Superstruct network is terrific news for our team and our fans. We will continue providing world-class experiences through our portfolio of live events, and now we are able to additionally benefit from a partner with a global network and experience. This will help us grow further and make what we do even better.

“We are very excited to join forces with ICS, the global leaders in metal”

“We very much look forward to working with the Superstruct team to continue pushing the envelope. Our goal is always to inspire and enthuse heavy metal fans around the world and to make people happy with our live activities.”

All 75,000 tickets for Wacken Open Air 2020 sold out in just 21 hours, following a successful 30th-anniversary event with Slayer, Sabaton and Prophets of Rage this summer.

James Barton, CEO of Superstruct, says: “We are very excited to join forces with ICS, the global leaders in metal. Led by Holger and Thomas, and supported by an experienced team overseeing a portfolio of quality events, we are confident that together we can continue to expand ICS and take the company and its events to the next level.”

Superstruct Entertainment, backed by private-equity firm Providence Equity Partners, additionally owns and operates Sziget (Hungary), Flow Festival (Finland), Sónar (Spain) and Spanish party promoter Elrow. In addition to next events, its most recent acquisitions are Down the Drain (Northside, Tinderbox) in Denmark and several UK events formerly owned by Global.

Read IQ’s special report on 30 years of Wacken Open Air here.

 


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