Live Nation Cuts Wembley Deal

The recently spun-off Live Nation has made its European rivals sit up and take notice by landing a 15-year contract to run Wembley Arena.

News of the deal coincides with the announcement that the site redevelopment is being expanded and will include the demolition of the Conference & Exhibition Centre, Hall One, Hall Two (Hall Three has already gone) and the five-story Elvin House office block that houses Wembley (London) H.Q.

When asked why those buildings had never been named for demolition as part of the site improvements, Wembley (London) Ltd’s senior commercial marketing director Julie Warren told Pollstar, “It’s anticipated that in line with the phased plans for the regeneration and development of the area around the new National Stadium, the Conference & Exhibition Centre are scheduled to close in Autumn 2006. Once a definitive date for initial demolition works is determined, this will be communicated.”

On January 23, Pollstar‘s London office received a fax updating the Wembley entries for inclusion in the magazine’s Concert Venue Directory; the instruction was to remove all venues except the arena.

Wembley (London) Ltd operations director David Thomson denied that site owners and parent company Quintain Estates could be running down or even phasing out the company he heads, despite its offices being rubbled and its running of the arena getting out-sourced to Live Nation.

“There’s a lot more site left to run”, he told Pollstar, although – when the redevelopment is finished – it looks as if a great deal of the remaining area will either be residential, leased out to the private sector or become part of the open spaces overseen by Charlie Shun and Kate Hopewell, who are both directly employed by Quintain Estates.

Wembley London employs 84 permanent staff and it’s expected that those based at the arena will either move over to Live Nation or be made redundant.

For Live Nation to get the arena is a great coup for the company, now headed by former Clear Channel Entertainment head of Europe Michael Rapino.

Anschutz Entertainment Group already has the running of what will be a 25,000-capacity arena at The Dome in east London, and now its newly formed rival has balanced the scales by taking charge of the major 12,500 capacity in the west of the city. Agents may get to choose between playing a night at the Anschutz Dome or a couple at the Rapino Arena.

At press time it wasn’t possible to get comment from Live Nation U.K.’s chief executive officer Paul Latham, or even his company’s confirmation that the deal has been done, but a statement that Quintain property director Nick Shattock gave to ShareCast suggests that it has.

On January 23 the online financial news and information service quoted him saying, “The redevelopment of Wembley Arena will consolidate its position as one of the most prestigious live entertainment venues in Europe.

“By signing this management agreement with Live Nation, one of the world’s leading live content and distribution companies, we are confident that Wembley will play host to extremely high-quality shows, as demonstrated by the strong line-up already secured.”

Live Nation is expected to send out a press release within the next 48 hours.

The refurbished venue, which has had £35 million (US$63 million) spent on it, is due to reopen April 1.

It already has close to three dozen confirmed shows including dates with Il Divo, Take That, Depeche Mode, Santana, and Westlife.

— John Gammon