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AEG buys Hammersmith Apollo from HMV

By | Published on Friday 1 June 2012

MAMA Group

As expected, HMV has announced the sale of part of its live division, the MAMA Group, to AEG Live. Though, as also expected, the live music conglom has only bought part of the MAMA venue portfolio – in fact, just one venue, albeit by far the biggest, the Hammersmith Apollo.

MAMA confirmed the conditional sale yesterday. The Apollo, which MAMA acquired in 2007 when Live Nation was forced to sell some of its London venues to secure approval for its purchase of a slice of the Academy Music Group, will actually be bought by an entity called Stage C, which is a joint venture between AEG Live subsidiary Ansco Music Club and CTS Eventim’s Getgo Consulting.

Stage C will pay £32 million for the venue, considerably more than the £13 million MAMA paid to acquire the building in the first place. The then independent MAMA certainly got a good deal for the venue, though it has become ever more profitable under the company’s tenure, and has particularly grown is prestige in the live comedy domain thanks to the BBC TV show hosted at the theatre.

Confirming the deal last night, MAMA CEO Dean James told CMU: “It has been a privilege to have been the custodians of this fabulous venue for the past five years and I wish Jay Marciano [at AEG], Klaus-Peter Schulenberg [at CTS Eventim] and their teams as much success and pleasure as we have enjoyed. I would also like to thank [former owners] Paul Latham [from Live Nation] and Denis Desmond [from MCD] for giving us the opportunity to own such a wonderful asset”.

The sale of the Apollo will enable the flagging HMV Group to extend its banking facilities, helping the firm’s new strategy to focus on its core high street retail business. Commenting on the sale, HMV CEO Simon Fox told Music Week: “The Hammersmith Apollo is an iconic London venue and it has been a privilege to own it over the last three years. However the sale will enable HMV to extend its bank facilities, strengthen its capital structure and ensure a strong future for the Group”.

The question now remains as to what will happen with the rest of the MAMA Group. When it first became clear that AEG was only bidding for part of HMV’s live firm there were reports that the entertainment retailer might hang on to its remaining live assets, though it is now thought the rest of the MAMA company will be part of a second deal down the line, with a management buy out led by James seeming the most likely conclusion.

The MAMA chief certainly seemed to be looking towards the long-term future at a sans-Apollo MAMA yesterday, saying: “MAMA is, and always has been, a mid-sized live music venue and festival business and this will remain our focus going forward. Our festivals are a significant part of building artist’s careers and offer a platform for those who are just starting out, right through to established acts. Florence And The Machine has played across our venues, from The Borderline to The Forum, and appeared on line-ups at The Great Escape and Lovebox. We have always worked with emerging talent, taking them through our estate, and we will be doing much more of this both in the UK and internationally”.

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