AMG To Make Brighton Rock

LN-Gaiety Holdings is preparing to sell off London’s Hammersmith Apollo and Forum in order to get Competition Commission approval to buy into Academy Music Group.

But AMG has continued its own expansion by acquiring Brighton Hippodrome.

The south-coast facility is the second AMG has bought since half of its shareholding became subject to a friendly bid from LN-Gaiety, a joint venture between Live Nation and Denis Desmond’s Dublin-based Gaiety Investments.

Along with Oxford Zodiac, which AMG bought at the end of 2006, it joins a provincial venue network that already includes outlets in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle.

The group’s London venues include Brixton Academy, Shepherds Bush Empire and Islington Academy.

"Brighton is a great city and a location we’ve been looking into for some time," AMG chief exec John Northcote said in a statement. "We’re delighted at the prospect of maintaining and developing a site with such history, especially as this venue still retains many of its original features and grandeur of its early years.

"Our aim is to bring the Hippodrome back as a quality entertainment venue, working with local bands and artists as well as major UK and international acts."

AMG has paid an undisclosed fee for the leasehold of the Grade II Listed building in Middle Street, which was in the hands of Southampton property developers Urbanfirst Ltd.

The Hippodrome opened as Brighton Ice Rink in 1897 before being converted to a theatre with its current name in 1901. It rapidly became the city’s principal variety theatres, presenting high quality entertainers like Max Miller and Judy Garland.

As trends in entertainment changed over the years, the 1960s welcomed performances by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, playing to capacity crowds. It closed as a live performance venue in 1965 and became the Mecca Bingo Hall in 1967 until closing in 2006.

LN-Gaiety president Paul Latham has confirmed that he has interest in both the Apollo and Forum, some of it coming from companies that submitted information to the Competition Commission opposing his company’s investment in AMG.

Latham said he’s particularly disappointed that the CC has left Live Nation with little choice other than to sell it off, partly because he spent so much time running the Apollo.

"I’ve spoken to the staff and quite a few of them are very upset. It’s not that they’re likely to lose their jobs because they’re protected by employment legislation but some of those people have been with me for a dozen years."

The names of the companies bidding for the venues have been submitted to the CC, which will check that they have no connection to LN-Gaiety.

Latham expects the sales of both will be concluded in about a month.