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Cream founder and former Ingenious man lead private equity investment in Hungary’s Sziget Festival

By | Published on Tuesday 17 January 2017

US-based private equity outfit Providence Equity Partners has confirmed it plans to build a portfolio of music festival interests which could see it invest in up to ten festival brands. That plan was revealed late last week as the finance firm announced it had taken a 70% stake in the company behind Hungary’s Sziget Festival.

From Providence’s side, the new joint venture is being led by James Barton, the Cream founder who quietly exited his most recent role as President of Electronic Music at Live Nation last November; and Paul Bedford, who previously led on various investments in the festival sector at Ingenious Media, including its 2008 deal with the Cream company, which it then sold on to Live Nation four years later.

Sziget’s current management will retain a 30% stake in the company and will continue to manage its operations day-to-day, leading on both the main Sziget Festival and their other events, which include Balaton Sound, Telekom VOLT Festival and Gyerek Sziget. Barton and Bedford will then work with that team on expanding their brands globally.

The founder of the Sziget festival, Karoly Gerendai, says that the deal means his company now has the resources to achieve its ambitions of going global. He told reporters: “With the help of our new partners we will be able to make a giant leap forward and embark on the ambitious projects that have been in our pipeline for some time. Providence’s network and financial resources will complement our existing management team’s expertise and will put us in an even stronger position to unlock significant new growth opportunities that otherwise would not have been available to us”.

Noting the success Gerendai and his team have already achieved in their home market – the main Sziget festival, originally launched in 1993, attracted 496,000 people over its seven days last year – Barton added of the potential for future growth: “The Sziget team has done an incredible job in creating some of the world’s most exciting festivals and we look forward to partnering with Karoly and team in the company’s next phase of growth to accelerate Sziget’s domestic and international growth plans”.

Meanwhile Bedford confirmed Providence’s wider ambitions in the festival space, calling the Sziget deal “a cornerstone acquisition”. He added: “We have in mind a federation of festival brands. They will work together as much and as often as they want to. There is some strength in numbers in this game”.