Festival Sale No Picnic

When the U.K.’s Festival Republic bought Peter Aiken’s share of Ireland’s Electric Picnic, it appeared to be a straightforward affair. But there seems to have been an attempt to downplay that the deal involved festival co-owner John Reynolds indirectly selling some of his shares to arch-rival promoter Denis Desmond.

Reynolds, who owns Pod Concerts, faced creditors and a High Court action over a euro 432,741 ($643,247) PRS bill for previous Picnics. Along with others involved in the festival sale, it appears he tried to downplay that it was Desmond’s cash that came to the rescue.

Last year, Irish performers’ rights society IMRO initiated court proceedings for the outstanding money and warned that Electric Picnic may struggle to get future licenses if the cash wasn’t forthcoming.

The announcement from Festival Republic, which Desmond co-owns, that it had acquired a stake in the festival said it had bought it from Peter Aiken, although that alone would not have been enough to give it a controlling interest.

Aiken is believed to have owned between 20 percent and 30 percent and Festival Republic is believed to have purchased all of that and half of the remaining shares, which would give it close to two-thirds of the stock.

When questioned on the matter, FR chief Melvin Benn admitted his company had also purchased some of Reynolds’ shares and now owns most of the 35,000-capacity Stradbally event.

The press release also focused on the good relationship Benn and Reynolds have built up over recent years but didn’t make any mention of Desmond’s involvement.
Benn told Pollstar that FR bought a block of shares from Aiken and Reynolds and it was not appropriate for him to discuss how the two Irishmen divided the money his company paid them.

Reynolds hasn’t responded to requests for a comment on the sale or revealed if he made the deal with a company Desmond co-owns in order to get himself out of a financial hole with the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO).

Soon after the announcement of the deal, Reynolds sent an e-mail to the festival’s contacts saying MCD wouldn’t run the event, although a second e-mail went some way to qualifying that statement.

Desmond wasn’t available for comment at press time and so it’s not been possible to find out if he protested the first mail.

This year’s Electric Picnic (Sept. 4-6) has announced a lineup including Orbital, Flaming Lips, Basement Jaxx, Madness, Fleet Foxes, MGMT, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Klaxons. Tickets were to go on sale April 16.