Anschutz Eyes More London Venues

AEG is looking to expand its London business by potentially developing one or more new venues for the 2012 Olympics.

"There are a number of buildings on the Olympic Park site that would be interesting," AEG Europe chief exec David Campbell told Bloomberg News.

The O2 is in line to host the Olympic basketball and handball finals, but Campbell didn’t offer any clues on what other Olympic venues AEG might fancy bidding for.

Meanwhile, if the parliamentary panel reviewing backs the U.K.’s original decision to place its first "super casino" in Manchester, which would finally end AEG’s plan to lead the way with a £350 million casino and two hotels at The O2, the U.S. company may consider building a terminal for a 1,200-passenger cruise ship that would dock at the site and take voyagers as far as the Mediterranean.

AEG will reopen what was once The Millennium Dome – now re-branded as The O2 – as a live music and entertainment complex June 24.

The company has spent a reported $695 million (£348 million) redeveloping the Greenwich site on the banks of the River Thames.

Historically, the 189-acre Millennium Dome project has been widely regarded by the public as a waste of money, and was often described as a "white elephant" by the national papers.

The loss-making Dome was handed over to AEG and developers Meridian Delta Group five years ago, after a variety of other potential bidders had all fallen by the wayside.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s critics claimed the government handed over The Dome virtually for free rather than suffer the huge indignity of seeing its monument to a new millennium and a "Cool Britannia" demolished.

Campbell has said AEG’s 100-year lease, in which the company will pay the government a percentage of its earnings, will give the British taxpayer a chance to "make its money back."

The new O2 will open three days before Blair quits his office and steps aside for current chancellor Gordon Brown.

The O2, which takes its name from the mobile-phone company that paid US$11.3 million (then £6 million) for the branding rights, will have a 20,000-seat hall for concerts and sporting events, a 2,000-seat live music club, an 11-screen cinema and 20 restaurants and bars.

AEG is keen to put the building’s history behind it, and issued a statement in April 2006 requesting journalists to stop describing it as The Dome and refer to it as "The O2."

Without him actually mentioning "the D word," it quoted Campbell as saying, "We want to have a clean break between the two buildings and not have any reference point to it.

"From our standpoint it might be a good thing that it was called a white elephant because it means we have only one place to go to make this work and that is up."

And up it is. AEG’s promoting division has already confirmed a stellar lineup of multi-night O2 runs by Bon Jovi, Prince, Barbra Streisand and The Rolling Stones before the doors even open for the first time. There will also be sporting events, including hockey and pro basketball games.

Positive reaction to the availability of a 20,000-capacity venue in London has caused AEG to up its event day forecast from an initial 120 to as may as 200 per year.