British Rumour Time

According to the rumours, competition regulators are investigating AEG and Live Nation  the two American giants are in a “battle for London” and John Giddings has sold his Isle Of Wight Festival.

While AEG lines up its Barclaycard British Summer Time shows for London’s Hyde Park, maybe it would have been better to call them British Rumour Time.

The Guardian reported that “a battle between the world’s two biggest live music companies for control of London’s prime venues” prompted an investigation by competition watchdogs concerned about “music lovers potentially facing higher ticket prices and less choice of big name acts.”

The Office Of Fair Trading has confirmed it’s looking at AEG’s takeover of the Wembley Arena  contract and whether it contravenes the 2002 Enterprise Act. AEG also runs London’s O2 Arena, which means major acts playing the English capital basically have a choice between two AEG-run venues.

If the OFT feels the deal does lessen competition in the market, its next step would be to refer the matter to the Competition Commission.

There’s no confirmation that Live Nation is being looked at for anything, and its only role in the Wembley investigation will likely be to fill in the questionnaire that’s been sent out to several promoters.

“It made a pleasant change to be on the other side of the desk,” LN UK chief exec Paul Latham told Pollstar, referring to the Competition Commission’s 2007 investigation into his company teaming with Irish entrepreneur Denis Desmond to effect a joint purchase of a majority share in Academy Music Group.

The upshot was the UK’s Competition Commission decided the deal would give LN-Gaiety Holdings too much control of London’s live music venues. LN-Gaiety sold off Hammersmith Apollo and The Forum.

At the end of last year, when LN lost the Wembley contract to AEG, it was obvious the news would cause a few raised eyebrows at the OFT.

The “battle for London” that’s now interesting some national papers has actually been in progress since 2008, when Live Nation was awarded the Hyde Park contract.

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

With LN confirmed as the promoter for the Olympic Stadium and AEG in Hyde Park, control of London is evenly balanced and the only battle to be fought is over who can provide the content that pulls the punters.

As far as Isle Of Wight: “Last time I looked in Companies House I owned all of the shares,” was IOW chief John Giddings’ comment on the widespread – but apparently inaccurate – rumour that he’d flogged the festival to Live Nation.

A year ago Giddings was laughing off a Sunday Telegraph story saying IOW was up for sale for £12 million (then $18.8 million). He said he’d want a lot more than that for it.

On that occasion, the Telegraph reported AEG as the mystery buyer.

The stories behind the rumours concern an investigation that isn’t happening, a battle that’s no more than a series of skirmishes that have been going on for over five years, and a major festival that hasn’t been sold.