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Live Nation can’t force AEG to hand over emails in Hyde Park concerts dispute

By | Published on Friday 21 August 2020

Live Nation

An English court has declined to force AEG to share internal communications with its rival Live Nation in an ongoing dispute over who has the rights to stage large-scale music events in London’s Hyde Park.

It’s AEG that currently has the deal with the Royal Parks organisation to stage summer events in Hyde Park, which it does under the British Summer Time brand it launched in 2013. However, prior to that Live Nation ran all the festivals in the park, including the Wireless and Calling events.

In the latter years of Live Nation’s stint running the Hyde Park shows there were regular run ins with local residents over crowds and noise. That, and frustrations with Royal Parks, meant the live giant pulled out of the bidding when its deal to run the Hyde Park programme came up for renewal in 2012.

AEG then got the gig, investing heavily in the infrastructure it sets up in the park in a bid to tackle the complaints of local residents. It’s thought that meant the whole British Summer Time venture was loss-making in the first few years, but then the initial investment started to pay off.

Needless to say, when its deal with Royal Parks ended in 2019, AEG was keen to get another stint so the pay off could continue. However, by that point Live Nation was interested again, meaning in 2019 the two live music firms bid against each other for the rights to run shows in Hyde Park from 2020 to 2025 (though not 2020, as it turned out).

AEG won that battle meaning the British Summer Time programme would continue. But then, last September, it emerged that Live Nation had formally challenged the decision.

At the time we knew that Live Nation was arguing that the procurement process undertaken by Royal Parks was flawed. Thanks to this week’s court hearing on the dispute, we now know a little more about the firm’s grievances.

Among other things, Live Nation alleges that the Royal Parks allowed AEG to make “material changes” to its bid after it had submitted its proposals. And not only that, but the changes were informally communicated to Royal Parks, rather than submitted via its bidding portal, which is the process that should have been employed to ensure complete transparency.

One material change relates to the involvement of AEG exec Jim King, who had played a key role in running British Summer Time since its launch in 2013. Live Nation claims that King had stepped down from the project, having just a consulting role, but that he was then put back in charge of the festival after AEG had submitted its bid. Around about the same time AEG announced the launch of a new European festivals division to be headed up by King.

King’s increased role being added to AEG’s bid post-submission was, Live Nation argues, a material change. And to better understand what happened, it wanted the court to force AEG to hand over communications that occurred between it and King during the bidding process. However, London’s High Court yesterday declined to do so.

According to Law360, judge Nerys Jefford noted that: “The inference that Live Nation draws from [the assumed] chronology is that Mr King’s involvement, not merely in the bid but in the contract if awarded to AEG, was material, and that his identification as the person to perform the role of events director was material, and that there was correspondingly a material change in AEG’s bid”.

But, she added, the documents Live Nation wanted access to – while clearly useful for its case – aren’t actually relevant in deciding whether or not AEG altering King’s role in its bid after submission constituted a “material change” that should cause concern.

Which means Live Nation will have to proceed with its case against Royal Parks without seeing emails and text messages sent between AEG and King. And so, the dispute continues.