There’s some bad blood between AEG and the City of Paris, both shareholders in SAE POPB, the management company of Accor Arena, and also the brand new Porte de la Chapelle Arena scheduled to open in 2023 in the North of the French capital.
In July of 2021, a call for tenders was launched to find an agency that would secure naming rights and other types of sponsorships for the new arena. AEG usually finds sponsorship opportunities for the buildings it operates through its own sponsorship division, but it is the law in France that a public company, such as SAE POPB, has to offer all aspects of its business in a public bidding process to any company out there that wants to apply.
AEG entered the bid with one of its own subsidiaries, but lost to Infront, a sports agency headquartered in Switzerland, which is part of the Wanda Sports Group. AEG went to a Paris court asking for an injunction (référé in France), which meant the court had to review the tender process and decide whether there were grounds to reopen the bid.
A few aspects had to be taken into account, while AEG reportedly provided the better offer in terms of the financials of future sponsorship deals, Infront came out in front on the technical criteria of the bid. Since Infront refused to make its financial details public in court, the judge asked that the protagonists share and work out the details internally.
Nicola Dupeux, the general manager of Accor Arena, told Pollstar that the entire situation would be reviewed in a board meeting this Thursday, May 12, and that the tender would be reattributed the following week.
He explained, that “in France, when you operate under public law, you need to do tenders for every [aspect of a business]. You cannot say, ‘because I’m a stakeholder in the arena, I should have this [part of the business, too].”
The City of Paris, which holds the majority of the stakes in SAE POPB, reportedly hasn’t taken it lightly that its supposed partner AEG would go to court over the outcome of the tender.
AEG holds a minority stake of 48% in SAE POPB, which limits its overall influence in the running of Accor Arena, as well as the yet-to-open Porte de la Chapelle Arena. AEG would like to purchase a majority in SAE POPB, but insiders tell Pollstar there’s no chance the City of Paris would ever give up its majority.
The dispute has led to speculation and accusations by the City of Paris, that AEG was acting against its own interests to get its way. The City cites Celine Dion’s 2020 tour dates as an example. Promoted by AEG, the Paris dates were given to Paris la Defense Arena, not Accor Arena, which in AEG’s reasoning was owed to the simple fact that the former has a greater capacity of 40,000, twice the capacity of Accor Arena.
The Le Monde report states that while this is certainly true, the question remained why AEG only staged four concerts at Accor Arena in four years, when its competitor Live Nation filled the hall 110 times. “It’s as if AEG, instead of favoring the room it co-owns, carefully avoided it, in order to weaken it,” the translation reads.
Dupeux remains hopeful that the May 12 board meeting will allow both AEG and the City of Paris to clear the air. It remains to be seen whether AEG will take further action in light of the fact that the City of Paris won’t budge when it comes to its majority stake in SAE POPB.
AEG Europe declined to comment.