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Key MAMA directors to depart as HMV sale goes through the motions

By | Published on Thursday 5 April 2012

MAMA Group

As HMV goes through the motions of selling the MAMA Group, speculation is rising regarding the future of some of the live firm’s key units as senior execs look to depart, seemingly unhappy at the prospect of their business being swallowed up by a bigger entertainment group – AEG Live and Sony Music having been widely tipped as key bidders for HMV’s live company.

As much previously reported, HMV announced it was undertaking a ‘strategic review’ of the MAMA Group late last year, which basically meant the company, acquired by the flagging retailer in 2010, was up for sale. It was no secret that HMV needed to raise further cash to reduce its debt liabilities with increasingly nervous bankers, and a MAMA sale was always on the cards, though it’s thought some of the live firm’s directors were annoyed at the speed with which the sale was announced – amidst reports of further disappointing pre-Christmas sales figures on the high street – and have become increasingly concerned at the way the bidding process is being handled.

As a result three directors are seemingly departing the company, impacting on two key parts of the MAMA business: sponsorship and artist management. In the former domain, there was chatter online last week that Rory Bett, the founder and MD of MAMA’s all important sponsorship business Music & Media Solutions, had tendered his resignation. Meanwhile rumour has it two key players from the company’s SuperVision management agency also plan to leave the company later this month, and MAMA’s artist management unit is likely to be wound down as a result.

While that still leaves the larger venue and festivals side of the company, if key execs there were also to leave the buyers of MAMA might find themselves in the situation Terra Firma created at EMI – ie without the key people who have provided the personal links to artists and managers (and in MAMA’s case agents and festival partners) over the years, it becomes increasingly hard to secure the artistic talent required for success. Sources close to the G-A-Y enterprise, in which MAMA is a shareholder, say management there, led by founder Jeremy Joseph, are already reviewing their options in case their personal contacts within the MAMA empire leave during any sale.

Of course some buyers – including AEG and at least one other London theatre owner thought to be bidding – might only be interested in the MAMA venue real estate, and in particular the Hammersmith Apollo. But for other bidders – possibly including Sony, whose interest likely goes beyond buildings – losing key executives in booking, sponsorship and management, and the impact that could have on partnerships with profitable brands like G-A-Y, could be an issue.

Some other MAMA directors are still expected to make a bid themselves for some or all of the company and, as previously reported, there has been speculation that AEG might bid for the bigger venues, leaving the rest of the group to be sold as a standalone entity, though it’s not clear whether such a split sale has been formally proposed by any of the bidders to date. It’s thought second stage bids should be filed with HMV later this month.