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UK regulator approves Viagogo’s sale of StubHub outside North America

By | Published on Thursday 9 September 2021


The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority confirmed yesterday that it has approved the sale of the StubHub business outside of North America, which means that the competition regulator’s investigation into Viagogo’s purchase of the wider StubHub company is now at an end.

Viagogo announced that it was buying its main rival StubHub from eBay in 2019. But by the time that deal was completed in February 2020, the UK’s competition regulator was already investigating the transaction, because a combined Viagogo/StubHub would totally dominate the for-profit ticket resale business in the UK and elsewhere.

Despite arguing that Viagogo and StubHub also compete with the primary ticketing companies – so their merger didn’t pose competition concerns – the former nevertheless proposed to sell off StubHub Europe to placate the regulator. Then in November last year it extended that proposal by offering to sell off all of StubHub’s operations outside of North America.

That was a significant concession on Viagogo’s part, although its $4 billion purchase of StubHub was mainly about securing a dominant position in the North American market where it has always been a small player.

In February this year, the CMA basically accepted that proposal. Although the regulator still had to approve whoever it was that Viagogo found to buy the StubHub business outside of North America. That buyer – now approved by the CMA – is a US investment entity called Digital Fuel Capital.

Viagogo welcomed the approval, obviously. The company’s Cris Miller said yesterday: “We are pleased to confirm a buyer for StubHub International has been approved by the UK Competition & Markets Authority. This brings to an end the investigation into the much-anticipated merger of Viagogo and StubHub North America, which is now cleared to proceed”.

“We appreciate the CMA’s role in bringing the merger to this conclusion”, he added, “and we look forward to sharing more details about the integration of the two businesses with our loyal customers and partners very soon”.

“As the live events industry emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, robust competition in the ticketing market is needed more than ever and Viagogo will continue to take its’ essential role in the live events industry very seriously”, he then mused. “Viagogo and StubHub will always remain committed to working with regulators, while providing safe and secure platforms for people to buy and sell tickets to events all over the world”.

The secondary ticketing sector has faced all the same challenges as the primary ticketing sector in the last eighteen months, of course. If anything more so, with the resale platforms being one step removed from the promoter when a show is cancelled or postponed. Meanwhile, regulation of online for-profit ticket touting continues to increase around the world, with some countries out-right banning it, while others are pushing for much more transparency about touted tickets and the touts.

Nevertheless, Digital Fuel Capital says it is “THRILLED” to have got itself into the good old touting game. Its President Carson Biederman told reporters: “We are THRILLED to become the new owners of StubHub International. After a long time and process, the teams in London, Madrid, Bilbao and Berlin will now form a new independent company. Together, we look forward to growing StubHub International as an agile and competitive ticket marketplace focused on helping fans access live experiences and transfer tickets securely”.

Responding to the news, Adam Webb from the anti-ticket-touting FanFair campaign said: “Good luck to Digital Fuel Capital. For their sake, I hope they didn’t pay very much. As well as reviving a distressed brand, what appears to be a team of US investment bankers with a portfolio of coffee and bathroom businesses will now be required to operate StubHub International as a direct competitor to Viagogo – a website with a long and storied history of breaking the law and that’s dominated by large-scale touts and non-existent tickets. This has got car crash written all over it”.