MAMA Wants More Mean Fiddlers

MAMA Group is bidding to up its portfolio of London venues by trying to buy five more Mean Fiddler buildings from LN-Gaiety, the Live Nation– and MCD Productions-owned company that sold it Hammersmith Apollo and The Forum.

"Strategically, if we do accept the offer, it’s about re-drawing our parameters for business – namely concentrating on larger concert venues," LN-Gaiety president Paul Latham told Pollstar.

MAMA is interested in the original Mean Fiddler venue in Harlesden, The Jazz Café, The Borderline, The Garage (currently undergoing refurbishment) and the G.A.Y. bar.

The package doesn’t include The Astoria, which is the subject of a compulsory purchase order from Westminster Council, pending the redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road tube station. Also not included is the new Mean Fiddler, which is housed in the same building.

LN-Gaiety looks likely to accept the offer as MAMA – parent company of the owners of the Barfly venues and the managers of acts including Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand – is understood to be angling for a deal since spring, when it started negotiating for The Apollo and The Forum.

At the time, Latham was faced with having to hive off both rooms – or the city’s Brixton Academy and Shepherds Bush Empire – to overcome Competition Commission objections to LN-Gaiety acquiring a 56 percent majority stake in the Academy Music Group’s national venue network.

It appears the negotiations were put on the backburner, as Live Nation chief Michael Rapino’s likely priority would have been to get control of the Academy venues, then start talking to Latham and Gaiety Investments boss Denis Desmond about what to do with the smaller rooms it bought in 2005 as part of the Mean Fiddler venue package.

"The venues that we are acquiring are among the best in the world," Rapino said in a March 30th company statement, shortly after the Apollo and The Forum had been sold to MAMA and the Academy deal had gone through.

"AMG has one of the strongest live music venue brands in the U.K. The acquisition of AMG will enable us to grow our U.K. venue network with a brand that music fans know and love," he added, seemingly indicating that his company’s venue acquisition strategy doesn’t involve collecting smaller venues.

The smallest venue Live Nation owns in the U.K. is the 1,200-capacity York Opera House theatre.

The only possible stumbling blocks could be that, after due diligence, MAMA isn’t prepared to go through with the so-far unspecified offer price.

A lesser offer could lead to Latham urging his company to hang fire because, unlike the time he had the Competition Commission looking at Live Nation’s London venue portfolio, he’s not under any pressure to sell – other than moving its U.K. venue strategy forward a little sooner.