AMG Close To National Network

Academy Music Group will move much closer to owning a national touring network with the 2008 opening of new venues in Brighton, Leeds and Sheffield.

The acquisition of the old Brighton Hippodrome was completed in February but the company is on the verge of announcing new rooms for Leeds and Sheffield.

It has bought what was known as the Leeds Town & Country Club between 1992 and 2000 and negotiated a leasehold acquisition of the former Roxy nightclub on Arundel Gate in Sheffield.

A Manchester venue and one in East Anglia would probably be enough to complete a national tour schedule soon able to include London and provincial venues in Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Oxford, Bristol and Brighton.

But Bob Angus from Metropolis Music, whose company has been an AMG shareholder for seven years, told Pollstar it wasn’t planned that way.

"You can’t map it out like that because it’s a bit like buying houses in a way. You can only choose from what you find or what the estate agents come up with, and then you only open up where you’re convinced that a venue is needed," he explained.

"They don’t give these buildings away with packets of cornflakes and you have to be confident that it’s going to do well.

"I’m very pleased with the way it’s going, particularly now that we’ve replaced a venture capitalist with a promoter," he said, referring to the Live Nation/Denis Desmond partnership LN-Gaiety buying RJD Partners’ AMG stock in April.

"It’s better than working with a VC that’s looking for an exit strategy and only bothered about the amount of short-term profit that it’s going to take," he added.

Simon Moran’s Manchester-based SJM Concerts is the company’s other major shareholder, owning the same approximately 22 percent stake as Metropolis.

Academy Music Group chief exec John Northcote said he’s especially pleased about being able to open in Leeds and Sheffield because it’s bringing two venues back to the touring circuit.

Apart from the Leeds T&C – a Grade 1 listed building – once being a regular stop-off for bands on a run of venues with capacities of about 2,000, the Sheffield venue was formerly known as the Top Rank Suite in the ’70s and ’80s and hosted shows including The Police, The Jam, Elvis Costello, The Clash and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1972.

Northcote, who sold his 12 percent stake to Metropolis and SJM in April, said at the time that the new company structure would enable him to speed up his search for new venues.

He’s confirmed that by securing three in a little more than six months. He said the acceleration is largely thanks to having LN-Gaiety president Paul Latham replacing RJD Partners on the board.

"Ian Howard [co-founder] wanted out and raising venture capital was the way we had to do it at the time," he said, explaining why RJD came on board to fund the £33.5 million management buyout of the old McKenzie Group in 2004. It was immediately re-named Academy Music Group.

Changes in management structure, including Richard Maides replacing former ops chief Steve Forster, have also contributed to Northcote – often in cahoots with Latham – having more time to search out and develop more properties.

He declined to mention any of the targets or which towns or cities they’re in but is confident that current negotiations will lead to more acquisition announcements in 2008.