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Private equity & live music: Who owns what?

It was recently reported that Providence Equity Partners-backed live giant Superstruct Entertainment was being readied for a sale, with a formal auction process set to be launched within weeks.

Providence was said to be working alongside banks Liontree and HSBC to gauge interest after planning the sale last summer, with Blackstone and CVC highlighted as potential bidders.

The report once again brought the international touring industry’s relationship with private equity (PE) into focus, with a number of the world’s biggest companies now wedded to that world. Ticketing guru Tim Chambers tackled the increasingly hot topic in a recent op-ed for IQ.

“The corporatisation of the live music industry to form a series of vertically aligned international conglomerates has attracted the attention of a growing number of private equity and capital investment groups, all, it seems, subscribers to the notion of perpetual sector growth,” he said.

“PE investments are made in the belief that they will lead to a profitable return, rather than any abstract concerns such as great art or a vibrant and diverse live music ecosystem.”

Providence expanded its music portfolio in 2022 with a strategic investment in agency giant Wasserman

Superstruct, the second-largest festival promoter on the planet after Live Nation, was founded in 2017 by Creamfields founder and ex-Live Nation president of electronic music James Barton and Roderik Schlosser while at Providence Equity Partners.

Providence expanded its music portfolio in 2022 with a strategic investment in agency giant Wasserman, and also backs Ambassador Theatre Group and Tait (Towers). In addition, it bought into Sweetwater, the leading US retailer of musical instruments and audio equipment, in 2021.

Last year meanwhile, it acquired audio specialist d&b Group along with a minority stake in Populous, an architectural and design firm for sports and entertainment venues, whose portfolio spans 3,000 projects including London’s Wembley Stadium and the Las Vegas Sphere.

Sixth Street-backed premium experiences specialist Legends revealed an agreement to purchase venue management giant ASM Global in November last year. The reputed $2.4 billion deal is planned to lead to the creation of a premium global live events company.

Silicon Valley-based PE firm Silver Lake announced last month it is to acquire all outstanding shares WME parent company Endeavor. Silver Lake made its initial investment in WME in 2012 and bought fashion and sports-focused talent agency IMG for $2.4 billion in late 2013, rolling up both acquisitions into WME-IMG. The mega-agency was rebranded as Endeavor in 2017.

Furthermore, Silver Lake acquired Australian live entertainment behemoth TEG from another investment company, Affinity Equity Partners, in 2019, in a reputed A$1.3bn deal, and also owns shares in Oak View Group and invested in sports merchandise company Fanatics.

“Arguably, only other PE-backed entities have the means to undertake such large-scale acquisitions, and so the concentration of ownership within the sector will inevitably continue”

Global investment firm Blackstone got in on the act in 2018, snapping up the UK’s NEC Group in a deal reportedly worth more than £800 million and looks poised to acquire song management company Hipgnosis Songs Fund.

In 2018, Netherlands-based multinational investment firm Waterland Private Equity acquired six leading Scandinavian promoters and agencies – ICO Concerts and ICO Management and Touring (Denmark), Friction and Atomic Soul Booking (Norway) and Blixten & Co and Maloney Concerts (Sweden), bringing them together as All Things Live.

Elsewhere, Artémis, an investment firm led by billionaire French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, acquired TPG’s majority stake in Creative Artists Agency (CAA) last year. PE company TPG had upped its 35% stake in CAA to 53% for a reported $225 million in 2014. The previous year, “purpose-driven global investment organisation” EQT entered the global touring business to become the largest outside shareholder in United Talent Agency (UTA).

US businessman Ron Burkle’s private equity firm Yucaipa Companies invested in booking agency Day After Day Productions in 2022, adding to existing live music interests such as  booking agencies Artist Group International, X-ray Touring, APA and K2Primavera Sound and Primavera Pro, and promoter Danny Wimmer Presents. APA and AGI merged to form Independent Artist Group (IAG) last year.

Plus, Chicago-based PE company GTCR made a “strategic investment” in American ticket exchange Vivid Seats back in 2017, and South by Southwest’s newly announced SXSW London spin-off will be produced under licence from SXSW LLC by Panarise, a live entertainment company established and owned by private investment vehicle Panarae. According to documents obtained by CMU, Panarae is associated with Ali Munir, an investor and director of SXSW’s majority owner, Penske Media Corporation.

In conclusion, Chambers, who serves as a ticketing advisor, consultant, and non-executive for various live entertainment operators, pondered whether the marriage between private equity and live entertainment had become too big to fail.

“In short, the PE strategy is to increase the volume of events by extending the territorial reach, improving the physical environment where events occur, and by then extracting more from audiences via value-add bundles, packages, and surge-pricing,” he said. “The consolidation of the live entertainment sector by a diminishing number of ever larger congloms has therefore been both a cause and effect of the influx of new capital.

“After the economic impact of layers of (vertical) consolidation and (horizontal) aggregation, the squeezing of costs, and the surge-pricing of audiences, to whom can PE-owned live music congloms sell as part of their exit strategies? Arguably, only other PE-backed entities have the means to undertake such large-scale acquisitions, and so the concentration of ownership within the sector will inevitably continue.”


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Yucaipa invests in Day After Day Productions

Ron Burkle’s private equity firm Yucaipa Companies has invested in booking agency Day After Day Productions (DADP).

Founded and led by agent Seth Shomes, the DADP roster includes more than 30 clients such as 98 Degrees, Aaron Lewis, Brian Wilson, Celebrating Meat Loaf, Deal Or No Deal – Live!, Flo Rida, Ice-T presents The Art Of Rap, Jeff Bridges & The Abiders, Matt Fraser, Missy Elliott, Staind, T.I., The Commodores, Tony Orlando, Tyler Henry, War and Wayne Newton.

Industry veteran Shomes relaunched DADP in 2021, having originally founded the agency in 1996. The firm specialises in booking entertainment for casinos, fairs, city events, theatres, PACs and corporate entities. DADP operated independently through 2014 until Shomes joined The Agency Group.

“Over the last decade I have watched with great interest Ron Burkle’s foray into the agency business and I am thrilled to partner with him and Yucaipa,” says Shomes. “As I relaunched DADP in April 2021 with just myself and a laptop, it is a proud moment that our immediate growth has quickly led to a partnership with one of the biggest entrepreneurs out there, and I look forward to finding internal synergies within Yucaipa’s portfolio of agencies and related entertainment companies.”

Yucaipa has existing interests in the live music industry through booking agencies Artist Group International, X-ray Touring, APA and K2, Primavera Sound and Primavera Pro,  and US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents. It also previously had a joint venture with Paradigm Talent Agency.

“Seth’s creative approach and client philosophy is in lockstep with ours”

“We are extremely pleased to be going into business with Seth Shomes,” says David Barnes, partner at Yucaipa. “We greatly admire the company he has built and look forward to having a successful partnership with him for years to come.”

As part of the investment, Danny Wimmer Presents has partnered with DADP to grow its DWP Talent Services (DWPTS) division. Shomes has been named partner of DWPTS, which focuses on the casino and fair business and was launched in 2021 with the acquisition of Billy Alan Productions.

“Billy Brill, Danny Wimmer, Del Williams and I have been looking for the right opportunities to expand our talent buying services for third party clients like casinos and fairs,” says Danny Hayes, CEO of Danny Wimmer Presents. “I was Seth’s lawyer the first time he built Day After Day, so I know what his unique skill set, relationships and reputation will bring to DWPTS. Seth’s creative approach and client philosophy is in lockstep with ours.”

DWP is one of the largest independent producers of destination music festivals in the US, with events including Aftershock, Bourbon & Beyond, GoldenSky Country Music Festival, Inkcarceration Music & Tattoo Festival, Louder Than Life, and Welcome To Rockville.


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UK’s X-ray Touring forms alliance with US’s AGI

London-based X-ray Touring has extended its joint-venture partnership with private-equity firm the Yucaipa Companies, continuing a relationship that began in 2017, and formed a new strategic alliance with New York’s Artist Group International (AGI), part of Yucaipa’s Y Entertainment Group.

The partnership will see the two agencies will work together internationally, with X-ray remaining under the control and direction of founding partners Martin Horne, Ian Huffam, Steve Strange and Scott Thomas and newly added board member Josh Javor.

X-ray’s roster of more than 400 acts includes Coldplay, Eminem, Robbie Williams, Gorillaz, Queens of the Stone Age, Linkin Park, Pixies, Stereophonics, Bombay Bicycle Club, Enter Shikari and Fever 333, while AGI represents Billy Joel, Metallica, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Linkin Park, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, the Strokes and Cage the Elephant, among others.

Yucaipa also has interests in two other London-based agencies, ITG and K2, Los Angeles-based APA, US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents and Spain’s Primavera Sound festival, as well as management company LBI Entertainment and sports agencies ISE and Steinberg Sports.

X-ray was also formerly allied with Paradigm Talent Agency (then Coda) in London, in which Yucaipa held a stake, though that relationship has now come to an end.

“The synergies between these companies creates even more opportunity for their clients”

“This had been a long time coming and I know all of X-ray is excited by this strategic partnership with AGI and Y Entertainment,” says Huffam. “There will be many changes over the next few years but our proven collective track records offer artists the best route forward to live success.”

“I have long admired what the X-ray team led by Ian, Steve, Scott and Martin have built,” says AGI’s Dennis Arfa. “We have wanted to work with X-ray for many years and are thrilled to finally have the opportunity to do so.”

AGI president Marsha Vlasic adds: “I am thrilled and excited to be joining forces with X-ray, a company that I have long admired and respected. I feel extremely positive about all of us being able to do great things together. During a time like this, which has been so difficult for all us, having this come together has been such a breath of fresh air and energy.”

“I am personally excited and delighted by our renewed joint venture partnership with my good friend Ron Burkle and the Yucaipa group,” says X-ray’s Strange. “I am also looking forward to our new strategic partnership with AGI in the US. I have known Dennis and Marsha and others at AGI for many years and I truly believe that our alliance will work fantastically well. We already feel that the chemistry between both companies can only strengthen our global impact.”

“AGI and X-ray’s leadership and innovation in the industry is unparallelled,” comments Yucaipa founder Ron Burkle. “The synergies between these companies creates even more opportunity for their clients. This is a perfect match both culturally and strategically and I look forward watching their collaboration as they continue to grow globally.“


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PE firm Yucaipa invests in APA

Less than a month after buying into UK metal agency K2, the Yucaipa Companies, the private-equity group controlled by billionaire investor Ron Burkle, has made a strategic investment in Los Angeles-based APA.

APA, the former Agency for the Performing Arts, is headquartered in Hollywood and has offices in New York, Nashville, Atlanta, Toronto and London. Its roster includes Blondie, House of Pain, Fetty Wap, Nickelback, Azealia Banks, Rodriguez, Lil Xan, Gang of Four, King Crimson, Nick Carter, Doves and 50 Cent.

Yucaipa, meanwhile, has stakes in Paradigm’s European business (including X-ray Touring), Spanish festival Primavera Sound and US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents, and owns Artist Group International.

“Ron Burkle and Yucaipa share our philosophy for disciplined growth”

According to Variety, which first reported on the deal, Burkle’s investment in APA is a non-equity arrangement that sees Yucaipa take on APA debt in exchange for cash. Variety’s sources say the cash influx will allow APA to recruit agents and clients at a time when its corporate agency rivals are furloughing and laying off staff.

“With so much uncertainty in the entertainment industry, we’re very pleased to be collaborating with a person and a company so in sync with our vision for the future of our business,” says APA CEO Jim Gosnell. “Ron Burkle and Yucaipa share our philosophy for disciplined growth, and are 100% behind our strategy to expand upon our core business across all media platforms.”

In other APA news, the agency’s head of talent, Jim Osborne (pictured), has been named president, taking over the role from Gosnell.


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K2 joins forces with Y Entertainment Group’s AGI

UK-based international booking agency K2, which represents the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer, has announced a joint venture with investment firm Yucaipa’s umbrella of companies.

Under the new partnership, K2 joins the Yucaipa-owned international booking agency Artist Group International (AGI) in the Y Entertainment Group.

Yucaipa’s existing interests in the music industry also include a joint venture with Paradigm Talent Agency, a minority stake in Primavera Sound and Primavera Pro and an acquisition of US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents (DWP).

“I have had the pleasure of collaborating with [AGI chairman] Dennis and the team at AGI for many years,” says K2 founder and renowned music agent John Jackson.

“Not only is there mutual respect between us, but we share a similar philosophy and work ethic when it comes to our artists, agents and staff. As such, joining forces is the perfect fit and an opportunity to flourish on the global stage.”

K2 agency was launched in 2004 and in recent years has acquired UK companies EGO Agency and Factory Music Management and Agency.

“Joining forces is the perfect fit and an opportunity to flourish”

Founder of Factory Music Management and Agency, Sharon Richardson, brought to K2 her roster of over 20 rock and metal artists, which include Delain, Sabaton, Steve Harris’s British Lion and Metal Allegiance. The acquisition of EGO brought over company founder Jim Morewood, agent Yerry Stetter, and EGO’s largely heavy metal-focused roster.

Chairman Dennis Arfa says, “John runs one of the best agencies in the world. We’re thrilled to be working with him and his K2 team. We share many clients including Metallica, Ghost, and Volbeat and over the years have developed a natural synergy. We are pleased that our ownership has staunchly facilitated and supported our expansion efforts.”

AGI was founded in 1986 and represents artists such as Billy Joel, Metallica, Def Leppard, Rod Stewart and Motley Crue.

It was acquired by The Yucaipa Companies in 2011, with an eye towards expanding its reach in the live entertainment space through strategic acquisitions and organic growth.

The companies say plans for collaboration, expansion and diversification will be further revealed in the coming months.


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Paradigm investor Yucaipa ups interest in live

Private-equity firm the Yucaipa Companies has provided backing for another live entertainment company, making a “substantial” investment in independent US festival producer Danny Wimmer Presents (DWP).

Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa has existing interests in the live music industry, through its joint venture with Paradigm Talent Agency and minority stake in Primavera Sound and Primavera Pro.

Danny Hayes, CEO of DWP, cites Yucaipa’s “successful investments in the music industry” as the reason for the financial partnership.

“We had several different options for investors, but ultimately selected Yucaipa because they really understood our growth strategy, and they are uniquely situated to help us execute on it,” says Hayes.

“Yucaipa [also] has key relationships in cities where we already operate and others we’d like to enter. We believe they will be able to accelerate our plans to expand into new markets.”

“We believe [Yucaipa] will be able to accelerate our plans to expand into new markets”

Founded in 2011, LA-based DWP produces seven music festivals across the US: Sonic Temple in Ohio, Aftershock in California, Epicenter in North Carolina, Welcome to Rockville in Florida and the Louisville Trifesta series, comprising Hometown Rising, Louder Than Life and Bourbon & Beyond.

DWP festivals attracted almost 750,000 fans in 2019.

The promoter aims to announce its initial acquisitions soon, having also announced new investment from First Horizon Bank and a renewed ticketing partnership with Front Gate Tickets.

“Collectively, the new and renewed partnerships provide DWP with a foundation to aggressively grow the business surrounded by forward-thinking partners,” comments Hayes.

The United Auburn Indian Community, an earlier investor in DWP, continues to hold a position with the company.


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Paradigm partner Yucaipa buys into Primavera Sound

American private-equity firm the Yucaipa Companies has made a minority investment in Primavera Sound and Primavera Pro.

Yucaipa, led by Ron Burkle, has an existing presence in the live music market via its joint venture with Paradigm Talent Agency, X-ray Touring, Coda Agency and ITG, which forms part of larger fund for investing in live entertainment.

The Primavera deal, specifics of which were not disclosed, was first reported by Pollstar and confirmed to IQ by both Yucaipa and the festival.

Yucaipa Companies principal Frank Quintero says the two parties “saw each other as a partner who shared the same ethos and vision to continue to grow the brand”.

Primavera Sound is Spain’s biggest music festival, with a daily capacity of 35,000 at the Parc del Forum in Barcelona. It held its 18th edition, headlined by Nick Cave, Björk, the National, Arctic Monkeys, Migos, Lorde and Asap Rocky, from 30 May to 3 June.


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