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Controversy over Viagogo’s £3.9 billion StubHub buy-out

6 December 2019

IN A move that took the industry by surprise, controversial resale website Viagogo has bought eBay-owned StubHub for $4.05 billion (£3.91bn).

Viagogo founder and CEO Eric Baker has bought the company he co-founded with Jeff Fluhr when they were still at business school.

Baker left StubHub and moved to the UK to launch Viagogo, before Fluhr sold StubHub to eBay for $310 million in 2007.

“It has long been my wish to unite the two companies,” says Baker. “I am so proud of how StubHub has grown over the years and excited about the possibilities for our shared future. Buyers will have a wider choice of tickets, and sellers will have a wider network of buyers.”

StubHub president Sukhinder Singh Cassidy says, “Bringing StubHub and Viagogo together will allow us to drive further expansion and innovation, and create a more competitive offering for live event fans globally.”

The sale is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2020, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.

In August, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) suspended preparations for court action against Viagogo, following contempt of court after its failure to comply with consumer protection laws.

Anti-ticket touting campaigners are shocked at the link-up between the world’s two leading resale operations.

“This feels like a desperate move from both parties,” says Adam Webb, campaign manager of artiste manager-funded FanFair Alliance.

“News of this acquisition should be a major concern for both audiences and music businesses — especially if Viagogo, a company that recently had a court order hanging over its head and is still the subject of a CMA investigation, use this process as an attempt to detoxify its brand.”

In a FanFair Alliance letter to the CMA, Webb urged the governmental watchdog to investigate the merger and its potential implications for UK consumers and the live event industry.

“A merger of the two, would potentially leave a single market-dominant platform – there would be no competition,” writes Webb in the letter.

“This would, we believe, inevitably lead to even higher fees for consumers, and an even greater dominance of search and social media advertising – increasing the risk of consumers being led needlessly towards inflated tickets in the secondary market, and away from authorised primary ticket agents.

“While there are other smaller less significant B2C secondary platforms operating in the UK (eg. Gigsberg, Vibe Tickets), these are populated by resellers already active on Viagogo and StubHub.”

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme, Viagogo MD Cris Miller brushed aside criticism, saying, “There is a lot of misunderstanding about the business. There are a number of different competitions and offerings out there for people to resell their tickets.”

”I have genuine concerns and a foreboding of things to come,” Victim of Viagogo founder and campaign leader Claire Turnham MBE tells LIVE UK. “Like all things Viagogo, the public will end up paying the off-the-scale costs of them buying Stubhub.

“Viagogo’s desire to dominate the market will likely only lead to more exploitation, rip-offs and misery for music fans.”

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