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Concerns raised about AEG’s expansion in London

By | Published on Wednesday 30 January 2013

AEG

The Office Of Fair Trading is investigating plans to award AEG the management contract at the Wembley Arena, it has been revealed.

The live music giant quietly won the Wembley deal late last year, replacing Live Nation as managers of the North London arena. But, according to The Guardian, concerns have been expressed – presumably by AEG’s rivals – that the US-owned live entertainment firm is becoming too dominant in the capital.

While in global terms Live Nation is a bigger live entertainment promoter than AEG Live, the wider Anschutz Entertainment Group has become increasingly dominant in London in recent years. Last summer it acquired one of the capital’s bigger theatre venues in the Hammersmith Apollo and last November announced it had secured the rights to stage concerts in Hyde Park.

But of most relevance to the Wembley deal is the fact that AEG operates The O2 and the arena that sites under the former Millennium Dome. Once it is managing the Wembley Arena, that would put the company in charge of the capital’s two main arena venues, as well as the Apollo, often the ‘stepping stone venue’ for bands and comedians looking to move from theatres to arenas.

The OFT investigation will look at whether the proposed Wembley deal will lead to a “substantial lessening of competition” within London’s live music market. If the OFT decides there are legitimate concerns, it could refer the AEG/Wembley deal to the Competition Commission.

AEG’s main rival Live Nation’s growth in London caused concerns at the OFT back in 2007 when it acquired a slice of the Academy Music Group. Regulators forced the live music firm to sell the Hammersmith Apollo and London Forum (both to MAMA) in order to get approval for its AMG deal.

Commenting on the new concerns about AEG’s dominance in London, one live industry source told The Guardian: “If AEG have control of the management of the two biggest venues there is of course the issue that they could look to impose ticket price increases, and exert more control over the artists and types of events”.

It’s not clear how quickly the OFT will rule on the matter. AEG, of course, is currently up for sale, with top man Tim Leiweke recently saying that the sale process was moving along nicely.



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