LN-Gaiety Undecided On London Venues
The joint-venture company formed by Live Nation and Denis Desmond has reluctantly agreed it needs to hive off a few London flagship venues as a condition of it buying into Academy Music Group.
LN-Gaiety president Paul Latham said the confirmation of the Competition Commission’s decision that either Brixton Academy or Hammersmith Apollo and either Shepherds Bush Empire or The Forum must be sold came through on January 23rd.
A day later, he told Pollstar the only decision the company has made so far is that it won’t be appealing because "the Competition Commission didn’t listen the first time around."
He said LN-Gaiety would now have to weigh the value of buying into Academy against the losses involved with selling Hammersmith Apollo and The Forum, two venues that turn a healthy profit.
"It would be a huge feat to get them to overturn the decision," Latham explained. "It’s based on what we ‘could’ do in terms of putting up rents and letting the buildings fall into disrepair.
"It’s saying we could do this and we could do that, although our submission contained undertakings that we wouldn’t do any of the things that they were saying that we could do," he said. "Osama Bin Laden ‘could be’ George Bush’s lovechild but we all know he isn’t."
"I’m not sure how much the Competition Commission understand the business. It’d be very short-sighted of us to jack up the venue rents and our submission contained a guarantee that we’d hold them at the current rates for the next five years. That wasn’t good enough. They kept saying we ‘could’ put them up.
"As for letting buildings fall into disrepair, that’s completely alien to the way we operate and I’ve provided details of where we’ve invested money in improving our venues and making them better places for the punters to visit.
"I even included a repairs and renewals investment in our proposals and that wasn’t good enough.
"Many of the original objectors were worried that we’d put the rents up but were happy about it when we undertook to peg them for five years.
"I pointed this out to the Commission but it doesn’t appear to have had any effect."
"I don’t want to lose Hammersmith because I ran it for 10 years and it’s hard to see a place go from your portfolio when you spent so much time and sweat building the place up. We’ll just have to look at the bigger picture and decide where we go from here."
The first difficulty facing Latham and Desmond, who have worked together to convince the CC that the Academy deal wouldn’t give the company a monopoly of the London venue business, is that LN-Gaiety doesn’t yet own two of the four buildings in question.
"How can we do a pre-arranged deal to sell them when we don’t own them? That’s not easy to set up," Latham explained.
That leaves selling Hammersmith and The Forum as the most expedient option, although Latham and the company are understandably reluctant to let go of those.
It wasn’t possible to get comment from AMG chief exec John Northcote at press time.