LN Wins Battle For Hyde Park

Live Nation has won the contract to stage large music events in London’s Hyde Park for the next three years, but only after former employee Stuart Galbraith tried to scupper the deal.

Kilimanjaro Live, the company Galbraith set up with AEG a year ago, also tendered for the contract and appealed the Royal Parks’ decision when it was awarded to Live Nation.

The Royal Parks, which manages Hyde Park and seven other London parks, released a statement confirming that Kilimanjaro made an appeal and later withdrew.

The Royal Parks handles the tendering process and conducts the interviews. It then makes its decision, which has to be ratified by the government’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). Once the decision is made, those with failed bids are given 10 days to appeal.

Reports suggesting Kilimanjaro’s appeal was turned down are incorrect. The appeal was heard by Royal Parks chief exec Mark Camley and a representative from the DCMS, but Kilimanjaro withdrew before a decision was made.

Galbraith said Kilimanjaro appealed because it believed the decision to award the contract to his former employer must have been a close call. But, after the appeal was heard, Kilimanjaro pulled out because it felt it was unlikely to succeed, and the awarding of the contract doesn’t preclude other companies from staging one-off events in the park.

He also said the contract lasts to only 2011, while 2012, the year London hosts the Olympic Games, is the one that most interests Kilimanjaro.

Hyde Park is restricted to a maximum of 13 major music shows each year, which are classified as events with capacities exceeding 5,000. According to Royal Parks press officer Katy Murray, it’s likely the dates will all be used by either Live Nation or the BBC’s Proms in The Park, another organisation awarded one of the five three-year contracts.

The other event organisers to win contracts are breast cancer charity Walk The Walk, Cancer Research UK and London Marathon.

Kilimanjaro’s appeal delayed the contract winners’ names being made public for a couple of weeks, and the news wasn’t officially announced until Oct. 27.

“It’s a testament to the work John Probyn and his team have put in over the years,” Live Nation UK President Paul Latham told Pollstar.

He wouldn’t comment on Kilimanjaro’s appeal or Galbraith, who was LN’s U.K. Music managing director but left after an acrimonious and seemingly ongoing bust-up that goes back to August 2007.

Latham at the time said he had no choice other than to relieve Galbraith of duty for breach of contract after it became apparent that he was negotiating to join AEG.

Galbraith arranged to announce his tie-up with AEG on Oct. 3, 2007, about a month after he was shown the door by LN. But his publicists at the Outside Organisation were forced to scrap a dozen press interviews when Live Nation got a High Court injunction preventing him from talking to the media.

The press had to wait until Jan. 14 before hearing about the launch of Kilimanjaro, which was somewhat overshadowed by the controversy going on behind the scenes.

As Galbraith had worked on many of LN’s Hyde Park shows, it looked obvious that – with the backing of AEG – he would compete for the contract when it next came up for renewal.

One of the most high-profile battles in the competition war between the two Los Angeles-based live music giants was destined to happen in the centre of London.

Probyn describes the site as being the U.K.’s equivalent of New York City’s Madison Square Garden in the sense that both venues are expensive and have logistical problems but fans love seeing bands there.

It’s not known how many promoting companies put in tenders to run live music in Hyde Park, but it was enough to cause The Royal Parks to take six weeks to make a decision rather than the four weeks it first indicated.

“I think it helped because we played it as if we were a new company that [The Parks] didn’t know, rather than try to trade on how well we’d done there in the past,” Probyn explained.

This year’s Hyde Park season, which included record-breaking sellouts for Hard Rock Calling and O2 Wireless Festival, was LN’s most successful and shifted more than 185,000 tickets at an average of nearly 26,500 per show day.

Kilimanjaro’s summer had somewhat mixed results. Bloodstock, the heavy rock fest it bought into, did well, but buying a 51 percent share of the twinned Wakestock festivals in north Wales and Oxfordshire didn’t turn out so well and are believed to have cost the company £2 million.

Galbraith has also been in talks with John Jackson of K2 Agency to produce festivals worldwide, although failure to get the Hyde Park contract may prove something of a setback in the U.K..

LN has put on shows in Hyde Park for 10 years and held a contract to do so for the last three.

The events and acts it’s presented there also include Live 8, Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday Concert, U2, Paul McCartney and The Police.