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Live Nation-MCD takeover faces competition probe

17 May 2019

GOVERNMENT WATCHDOG the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into the proposed purchase by Live Nation Entertainment (LNE) sister company LN-Gaiety Holdings (LNG) of Irish promoter and venue owner MCD Productions, 

The move follows a similar probe by Ireland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)  

The CMA inquiry is in its first phase, inviting submissions by 30 May, with a decision on whether to escalate it, announced by 11 July. In Ireland the CCPC is already at Phase 2 (see LIVE UK issue 228), and expects to reach a conclusion by the end of summer.

MCD is owned by Denis Desmond and wife Caroline Downey, who also own 50 per cent of LNG through their company Gaiety Investments, leaving the pair effectively owning 50 per cent of MCD if the deal goes through. Desmond is already LNE UK’s non-executive chairman.

The LN half of LNG is owned by LNE subsidiary Live Nation (Music) UK (LNM).

The proposed merger would bring together a large number of live music assets in the UK and Ireland. LNG owns 100 per cent of Festival Republic and at least 75 per cent of MAMA & Company, which owns Mama Festivals. 

Festival Republic owns Reading (cap. 90,000), Leeds (80,000) and Latitude (35,000), and runs Download (110,000) and Wireless (45,000), and also owns Electric Picnic (47,000) in Ireland. MAMA operates Lovebox (25,000), Citadel (25,000), Wilderness (10,000) and multi-venue showcase festival The Great Escape.

In Ireland, MCD owns Dublin venues The Olympia (1,600), The Gaiety (2,000), The Ambassador (1,200) and The Academy (650), as well as the city’s Longitude Festival (16,000) and Belfast’s Vital (30,000), while LNE owns Dublin’s 3 Arena (14,000). 

LNE venues in the UK include Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (7,500), Manchester’s O2 Apollo (3,500) and the O2 Southampton Guildhall (1,749), along with a dominant stake in venue chain Academy Music Group (AMG), via LNM,  with fellow shareholders including the founders of SJM Concerts and Metropolis Music, the latter now owned by LNM.

Desmond has undoubtedly been the most influential live music business entrepreneur of the last several decades, having been instrumental in the launch of Scotland’s T In The Park (85,000) and the twin V festivals (87,000 each at their peak) – all now discontinued. He also bailed-out the Isle of Wight (55,000, now owned by LNE) at one point and was a key shareholder in AMG.

Commenting on the Irish investigation, Desmond told our sister publication Audience (see issue 223), “It is just part of the standard process for this sort of thing, they are just doing their job. We don’t expect any issues.” 

He was unavailable for comment regarding the CMA’s involvement, as LIVE UK went to print.

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