Business As Usual At Academy

The U.K. Competition Commission’s ongoing investigation into the proposed sale of half of Academy Music Group hasn’t stopped the company from carrying on business as usual and buying another building.

London-based AMG, which is subject to an offer from Hamsard 2786 (the company formed by Live Nation and Irish promoter Denis Desmond) has added Oxford Zodiac to a provincial venue portfolio that already includes rooms in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle.

It’s not an acquisition that’s likely to bother the monopolies authority, which is already on record saying it is more concerned with the number of London venues that AMG and Hamsard would control between them.

AMG has its flagship Brixton Academy, the equally famous Shepherds Bush Empire and the smaller Islington Academy, while Hamsard – including the buildings it bought when it paid £37.9 million (then US$71.6 million) for The Mean Fiddler Music Group – runs Hammersmith Carling Apollo, Wembley Arena, The Astoria, The Forum, Borderline, The Garage and the Jazz Café.

There are no details of what the Academy Group, which has major promoters SJM Concerts, Metropolis Music and Desmond himself among its shareholders, has paid Nick Moorbath and Adrian Hicks for the Zodiac, which will presumably be re-branded as the Carling Academy Oxford.

Moorbath and Hicks have built up the 500-capacity venue over 11 years and may well continue to use it as promoters.

The Zodiac deal is the second time in a year that AMG has gone back to its director’s roots to acquire a new building.

Chief exec John Northcote grew up in Oxford, where he developed the Music Market retail chain, while group ops director Steve Forster is from Newcastle, where AMG bought the old Gala bingo hall and turned it into Newcastle Academy in October 2005.

Further plans for the Oxford venue are expected to be announced in the coming weeks but Carl Bathgate, who joined AMG’s Birmingham Academy from Liverpool Guild of Students, has already been confirmed as GM.

– John Gammon