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StubHub President stands down

By | Published on Friday 29 May 2020


The President of secondary ticketing company StubHub, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, has announced that she is standing down. Her departure comes as the ticket resale company deals with the impact of COVID-19, though she insists that the business is now in a position to weather that storm meaning that she is able to depart, which had been her plan ever since the Viagogo acquisition.

The entire ticketing industry has been dealing with the challenge of the COVID-19 shutdown and the unprecedented number of cancellations and postponements it has caused. The challenges are even greater for those in secondary ticketing, because there are extra links in the chain, and both the platforms and the sellers are dependent on decisions being made by promoters and primary ticket agents with whom they have no formal relationship.

In some markets StubHub has been offering vouchers instead of cash refunds for cancelled shows, a policy that has led to litigation in both the US and Canada. Meanwhile, there were plenty of rumours that the huge cash flow challenges faced by StubHub as a result of COVID-19 could push the business into bankruptcy. Though that’s a rumour that both the company and now Cassidy have been keen to dispute.

Prior to all the COVID-19 chaos, StubHub was bought by its rival Viagogo, of course, which is the main reason for Cassidy’s departure, she insists. The combined StubHub/Viagogo “doesn’t need two [bosses]” she told Billboard when asked about her decision to leave the company, and “prior to the sale, we had agreed with Viagogo that I would be transitioning out at the appropriate time once the sale had closed”.

That all makes sense. Although, while that sale has indeed closed, the two ticket resale businesses are yet to properly merge because of the ongoing competition regulator investigation into the deal in the UK. That has meant Viagogo’s management have had to keep their distance from StubHub even as it goes through its biggest challenge to date.

Given the impact COVID-19 has had on the ticketing business at large and secondary ticketing in particular, Forbes this week headlined an article on Viagogo’s acquisition of StubHub with the words “Worst. Deal. Ever”. That article considers the challenges ahead for Eric Baker, the man who launched Viagogo in 2006 after being pushed out of StubHub, which he had also co-founded six years earlier.

Last year’s deal meant he was back in charge of both the companies he had created, but achieving that cost $4 billion. That’s a lot of money to spend just before the live industry shuts down, people stop buying tickets and you’re faced with millions and millions of dollars in refunds to pay out. Hence the headline.

It’s also worth noting, US-centric Forbes reaches that conclusion about Baker’s StubHub deal without even really considering the significant regulatory shift that is underway in Europe and elsewhere which – even before COVID-19 struck – was already hindering the ticket touting business that both StubHub and Viagogo are built on.

However, Cassidy insists, she is leaving Baker and his team a healthy StubHub to play with. “I felt a strong desire to stay and help us restructure and manage the business through what was a pretty immediate crisis for the industry”, she told Billboard. “And then when I felt like the company was in a position that it would not just be able to manage through this, but also be in a position to thrive and recover, that’s when I agreed to make my transition out”.

Navigating the COVID-19 storm did involve furloughing two-thirds of the StubHub workforce, and it’s reported that 200 of those staff members have now been told they won’t have jobs to return to. But maybe such severe measures are enough to help StubHub and its new parent company to “thrive and recover”.

Though that recovery might depend on how quickly the live industry comes out the other end of the COVID-19 shutdown, the outcome of those lawsuits over the company’s refunds policy, and whether tighter regulations of ticket touting are expanded across the whole of Europe and then, ultimately, into the US too.