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OVG’s Jessica Koravos: ‘We’re very opportunistic’

Oak View Group (OVG) International president Jessica Koravos has spoken to IQ about the company’s plans for new arena developments in Europe and Africa.

OVG’s chief executive Tim Leiweke first revealed plans to build “the greatest arena in the world” in west London during his Hotseat interview at this year’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC), while the firm has also broken ground on a $100 million, 12,000-cap purpose-built venue in Lagos, Nigeria.

“We’re very opportunistic, and where we see a good opportunity in a good market – or an underserved market – we jump on it,” Koravos tells IQ. “Lagos is a prime example of that, in that you have one of the biggest music markets in the world in terms of fan and local artist concentration that has not got a single purpose-built music or sports venue to scale. I think that new arena in Lagos is going to be revolutionary in that market.”

Although London is already home to The O2 (cap. 21,000) and OVO Arena Wembley (12,500), Koravos believes the capital city is still “underserved” for arenas.

“London is at the very top of of Tim’s list,” she says. “It’s just got The O2 which, of course, Tim and I were both involved in building [while at AEG], and it’s got Wembley. It is a market that needs additional capacity and will do more than any other arena in any other city to expand the the number of arena tours going through the UK, because a lot of that thinking – rightly or wrongly – starts with London.

“Expanding capacity in London will open up a raft of additional opportunities for the whole country”

“If you can’t get dates in London then you wait until you can to route your tour, so expanding capacity in London will open up a raft of additional opportunities for the whole country.”

The company’s new 23,500-cap Co-op Live venue in Manchester got up and running last week with a concert by Elbow following a series of delays and has since hosted gigs by the Black Keys, Eric Clapton and Barry Manilow. The “music-first” arena’s opening season lineup also includes the likes of Nicki Minaj and Stevie Nicks, as well as several multi-night residencies including Liam Gallagher, The Killers and UK exclusive performances by the Eagles.

OVG also added high-end hospitality group Rhubarb Hospitality Collection to its ranks in 2023, having previously acquired a number of companies in the field including Bovingdons Catering and Spectrum Catering, Concessions & Event Services.

“It fits into our thinking about fan experience,” explains Koravos. “When we started thinking about what we wanted this new generation of venues to look like, one of the things that was the top of everybody’s list was that, whilst food and beverage is a fundamental part of the experience of going out to a concert, it has traditionally just not been done very well. And it hasn’t been done very well partly because it’s been outsourced to third party food and beverage partners.

“One of the first things that we tried to do was say, ‘Let’s take that back in house, control the full experience and try to find who does this best.’ And Rhubarb is the top premium food and beverage company in the country, so were a natural choice and a great fit.”


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OVG buys British hospitality group Rhubarb

Oak View Group (OVG) has acquired Rhubarb Hospitality Collection, a high-end hospitality group with venues in London, New York and Berlin.

Rhubarb’s 2,000-strong team caters for over five million people every year at venues including Hudson Yards (New York) and Royal Albert Hall, Ascot Racecourse, Sky Garden, 22 Bishopsgate in London. Other clients include immersive live entertainment experiences Mamma Mia! The Party and Frameless.

The company, which boasts more than 25 years in the industry, is forecasted to deliver nine-figure revenues in 2023.

OVG says the acquisition of Rhubarb will drive plans to transform the food and beverage experience at arenas, stadiums, and live entertainment venues across the UK and around the world.

The transaction represents a continuing expansion by OVG into premium hospitality, with its new food and beverage arm, OVG Hospitality, now “the fastest-growing concessions and premium hospitality platform in the live entertainment and convention industry,” according to the company.

In recent years, OVG has acquired a number of companies in the hospitality industry including Bovingdons Catering and Spectrum Catering, Concessions & Event Services.

“By adding Rhubarb we think we are now best-in-class on premium experience and hospitality”

“This acquisition, along with other companies we acquired over the last two years, gives us a platform that we think rivals or is better than any other food and beverage company out there,” says Tim Leiweke, chairman and CEO, Oak View Group.

“We feel strongly about this because we are facility owners and operators, and we see food and beverage differently than people who are simply just third-party vendors. If you look at the arenas we own and operate and you look at our upcoming ventures, like Co-op Live, by adding Rhubarb we think we are now best-in-class on premium experience and hospitality and that is in large part because of our knowledge and experiences as arena owners and operators, not just food and beverage vendors.

“We’ve always believed that fans deserve the very best, from their experience getting to and from an arena to the best possible presentation of the show they’ve chosen to see, to the food and drink they buy. It has been clear from our first meeting that the Rhubarb team shares both our vision to elevate the fan experience, as well as our focus on quality, sustainability, and the importance of a great company culture. Rhubarb and OVG are the perfect partners to design and deliver the world’s best hospitality at venues around the world.”

Pieter-Bas Jacobse, chief executive of Rhubarb Hospitality Group, adds: “This is an incredibly meaningful partnership for Rhubarb, and we are thrilled to partner with OVG. We have known the team for many years, they understand our business model, and we all see best-in-class hospitality as essential to the value proposition between venues and their fans. Together, we are determined to redefine what it means to deliver a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience in our industry.”

OVG oversees the operations of Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center, UBS Arena in Belmont Park, NY, and Moody Center in Austin, TX as well as arena development projects for Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, CA; Co-op Live in Manchester, UK; and projects for Arena São Paulo in São Paulo, BZ; CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore, MD; FirstOntario Centre Arena in Hamilton, ON; a new arena and entertainment district in Las Vegas, NV; and a new arena in Cardiff, Wales.


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