AEG For Wembley Arena?

The news that AEG will likely take over operations at Wembley Arena may cause a few raised eyebrows at the UK Office Of Fair Trading.

The  announcement says Live Nation “agreed to halt its venue-management contract for Wembley Arena,” although sources close to the venue reckon that landlord Quintain gave it 60 days notice that its contract was being terminated./

Quintain, which also owns much of the land around the arena, hasn’t confirmed AEG is taking over. But the two companies, which work together on the Greenwich Peninsula site around the O2 Arena, are having talks to that end.

The loss of the Wembley contract means that Live Nation’s arch rival will control both of the capital’s major arenas.  AEG also put in the winning bid to run entertainment at Hyde Park, which Live Nation had handled previously and put in its own bid to continue running.

Whatever claims Earls CourtOlympia and Excel have to arena status, most acts play either Wembley or O2. While AEG operates those two major arenas, Live Nation remains the leading talent provider at both.

At the beginning of 2007, the Competition Commission made Live Nation and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments sell off Hammersmith Apollo and The Forum before allowing them to buy into Academy Music Group.

CC deputy chairman Diana Guy said the monopoly watchdog felt the deal would mean it’s “likely that ticket prices would go up” and that “the quality of venues could decline.”

The OFT may now ask the CC to examine the likely consequences for the live music industry and the public if Quintain and AEG drive the development of London’s two premier arena sites.

Quintain, with property interests on both sites, can clearly see the need for a positive neighbour at Greenwich and venue expertise at Wembley.

Currently on the block, AEG appears keen to add to its value by taking over the running of some of London’s major flagship venues.