Vivendi Grabs See Tickets

Global entertainment and telecoms giant Vivendi has bought the UK’s See Tickets for a so far undisclosed sum, which The Sunday Times reckons to be close to £80 million (US$130 million).

The news follows days of British music industry speculation that the Paris-based outfit, which owns Universal Music Group, was in a straight fight with German ticketing giant CTS Eventim to grab the UK’s second-largest ticketing firm behind Ticketmaster.

See is reckoned to have around 20 percent of the UK domestic market.

For Vivendi, which has other assets ranging from French pay-to-view TV firm Canal+ and various international telecom companies, it’s another step toward becoming a 360-degree music company in the UK.

It’s the first major step it’s made in that direction since Universal’s 2007 acquisition of Sanctuary Music Group, which included the management companies for such acts as Iron Maiden, Beyonce and Elton John, Bravado Merchandising and Helter Skelter agency.

If Bremen-based Eventim was the under-bidder it’s likely it knew the writing was on the wall at least a couple weeks before the announcement came.

Two days before the story broke, and without even confirming that his company was among the bidders, Eventim investor relations director Marco Haeckermann told Pollstar that it was entirely possible that a multifaceted conglomerate may set a higher valuation on See Tickets UK than an experienced ticketing company.

Vivendi’s ticketing interests are confined to French outlet Digitick. It acquired a majority shareholding in the company at the end of last year, valuing it at around euro 45 million.

The result of the bidding is likely to cause less surprise in the UK’s music industry and national business media than the price. There was a common view that See would fetch somewhere between £100 million and £120 million.

Apart from Haeckermann, other Eventim execs who didn’t want to be named believed Vivendi – or even a private equity company – could have bid nearer the top end of that range.

Many on the London music business grapevine believed that Nick Blackburn, who was tapped to head up Eventim’s UK operation after spending a decade at the helm of See Tickets, may have suggested a more realistic valuation on his old firm than a cash-rich corporation with little or no experience of the ticketing business.

A year ago Blackburn left See Tickets, the UK’s second-biggest ticketing firm behind Ticketmaster, because he didn’t like the way his Dutch masters were running the company.

Whatever his issues with See Tickets’ former owners, Holland’s Stage Entertainment and the Parcom private-equity group, it’s likely there are areas where Blackburn would have wanted to see changes.