Ticketmaster’s Turkish Delight

While a number of competitors have been sniffing around Turkey’s second-largest ticket seller, U.S.-based Ticketmaster is believed to be on the verge of turning the market on its head by buying the country’s biggest operation.

Although European business development director Paul LaFontaine wouldn’t comment on “speculation,” and corporate communications director Bonnie Poindexter said it’s Ticketmaster’s policy to “neither confirm nor deny rumours regarding potential acquisitions,” a couple of Istanbul-based papers have said the deal to buy Biletix is as good as done at a price of about US$17 million.

Biletix is Turkey’s biggest ticket seller, holding more than 75 percent of the market and at least 90 percent of the contemporary live music market.

It sells tickets for more than 2,000 live events per year via its online ticketing system and is recommended by Ticketmaster, which has no base in Turkey, on its ticketmastereurope.com Web site.

It’s co-owned by TAG Enterprises International Ltd. and Koç ITG, which is part of the huge empire owned by Turkey’s mega-rich Koç family. It has 98 companies spread across 14 industries.

“The next stage to focus on is the e-lifestyle, for example e-learning, e-ticketing and e-commerce,” Ali Koç, President of Koç ITG, told the New York Times three years ago.

Although Turkey is far from being on every act’s touring itinerary and is still arguably a decade away from full membership in the European Union, it’s expected to have an 80 million-plus population and be the biggest member state – about level with Germany – by the time it does join.

The European Commission is to publish its next annual report on Turkey’s progress toward EU membership November 8th.

If ticketing industry insiders have been aware of the deal for some time, which is very possible, then rumors of Germany’s CTS Eventim and Turkey’s huge Dogan media group being interested in TicketTurk – the company’s only other major ticket seller – gain a little more credibility.

If Ticketmaster is to take the company that’s said to have three-quarters of a market of 75 million people, then CTS and Dogan might at least want a foot in the door and the chance to build the company that currently has the other 20-odd percent slice of the pie.

Dogan is the country’s leading media conglomerate, with operations in newspaper, magazine and book publishing, television and radio broadcasting, printing and new media.

Attention has been focused on TicketTurk because of the legal actions it faces from U.S. rockers Megadeth and Garbage, which took a dramatic turn only two days before the first case was due in court.

A day after NTV – Turkey’s main television news station – picked up on an October 7th story from Pollstar and ran its own pieces on the case, TicketTurk finance director Eyup Uyan contacted Charmenko‘s lawyers with the offer of a settlement.

The October 11th hearing opened at Istanbul’s Asliye Ticaret Mahkemesi (commercial court), although it was quickly adjourned until December 6th for procedural reasons. But the ticketing company had already offered to pay half of the money owed to the two acts now and the other half when Charmenko agency, which was bringing the legal actions on behalf of both, has booked a show for TicketTurk later in the year.

Charmenko’s lawyers at Topdemir & Inandioglu have replied by saying the acts and the agency want all of the money now and proposed future shows shouldn’t be a condition of payment. TicketTurk hadn’t responded at press time.

The company is said to have guaranteed payment of the money owed to Garbage and Megadeth by Boray Dundar, its only contemporary live music client, who promoted the financially disastrous Rock Istanbul 2005 that featured both bands.

In July, in what looked like another attempt to hang on to its portfolio of one rock promoter, TicketTurk guaranteed the fee for Dundar’s Guns N’ Roses show at Istanbul’s 12,000-capacity Kuruçesme Arena, an event which was only half full and reportedly lost about a quarter of a million dollars.

– John Gammon