Investment Firm Blackstone Buys NEC Group UK

Arena Birmingham
– Arena Birmingham
The 15,800 capacity arena is operated by NEC Group, which was acquired by Blackstone Investment

The private equity fund of investment firm Blackstone has acquired UK event venues operator National Exhibition Centre Group (NEC Group) from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, for an undisclosed sum.
According to a statement announcing the transaction, LDC originally backed a management buyout of the Group in January 2015. Since then, it has supported a four-year transformation programme to enhance sites, facilities and customer experience and broaden the range of events across the Group’s portfolio, supported by significant capital investment.
Founded in Birmingham, England, in 1976, NEC Group operates the city’s National Exhibition Centre, International Convention Centre, Genting Arena and Arena Birmingham, among others.
It also owns and operates event catering company Amadeus and national ticketing agency The Ticket Factory, which recently partnered with Edinburgh based start-up make it social to provide a seamless social group booking experience. NEC Group hosts over seven million guests and 750 events per year.
Some of the recent shows at Genting Arena, which holds a maximum capacity of 15,549, include Kylie Minogue, promoted by Live Nation, who sold 11,501 tickets and grossed $1,077,040 for her Sept. 21 concert in Birmingham, according to Pollstar‘s box office reports.  Jason Derulo (SJM) sold 4,932 tickets and grossed $290,099 on Sept. 26, and Iron Maiden (Live Nation) sold out 14,001 tickets on Aug. 7, grossing $1,096,579.
The 15,800 capacity Arena Birmingham’s recent concert program included two almost sold out nights by Arctic Monkeys (SJM), Sept. 15-16, grossing $2,401,268 with a total of 29,510 tickets sold, and Justin Timberlake (Live Nation), who sold out 11,383 tickets on Aug. 27, grossing $987,620,
NEC Group chief executive Paul Thandi said: “Blackstone’s track record in scaling companies, sector knowledge and unrivalled real estate capabilities, make them the ideal new partner for NEC Group to realise the next phase of our ambitious growth strategy.
“All of our teams and partners look forward to working closely with the world class team as we embark on becoming the definitive name in events and exhibitions, while continuing to focus on innovations and new customer experience offerings for all our customer groups.”
Lionel Assant, European head of Private Equity at Blackstone, added: “Under the leadership of Paul Thandi, a best in class management team and the support of LDC, the NEC has transformed its main site into a leading leisure, entertainment and business destination, which continues to benefit from a diverse customer base. We have tremendous respect for what has been achieved; NEC Group is iconic and we are excited about our new partnership as we look to leverage our firm’s capabilities in support of the team.”
Blackstone was advised by Moelis, LDC by Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the transaction.
Pollstar travelled to Birmingham at the end of last year to visit the NEC Campus and talk to Guy Dunstan, general manager of both Arena Birmingham and Genting Arena.