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UK regulator raises concerns about Live Nation’s MCD acquisition

By | Published on Friday 12 July 2019

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The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority has raised concerns about the proposed acquisition of Irish music firm MCD Productions by Live Nation subsidiary LN-Gaiety Holdings. The live music giant will now need to allay those concerns otherwise the regulator may begin a more in depth investigation into the deal.

Live Nation’s purchase of MCD is slightly confusing because LN-Gaiety Holdings is the live giant’s joint venture with the Irish company Gaiety, which is best known for, well, owning MCD Productions.

Live Nation has had a long-standing partnership with Gaiety, the company owned by Denis Desmond and his wife Caroline Downey, and many of its UK acquisitions in recent years have actually been via the LN-Gaiety joint venture. Desmond himself now heads up Live Nation’s UK and Ireland operations.

However, MCD, the concerts company Desmond co-founded in 1980, has not previously been part of the partnership. Until last August, when LN-Gaiety announced its intention to acquire MCD. That deal has since been investigated by competition regulators in both Ireland and the UK.

The CMA said yesterday that its concerns with the proposed deal relate to the Northern Irish music market and centre on Live Nation’s ownership of ticketing giant Ticketmaster. “Following the initial investigation”, the regulator said, “[we are] concerned that the deal could result in less competition in the music promotion industry in Northern Ireland.

“There are only a few rival music promoters in the region and they mainly rely on Ticketmaster to sell tickets to their events”, it went on. “As Live Nation already owns Ticketmaster, the CMA is concerned that if it were to acquire MCD, it may be able to stop rival promoters selling tickets through that platform post-merger”.

It’s an interesting concern because usually – when Live Nation is buying up yet more venues, promoters and artist management outfits – the concern is that it might use that market dominance to pressure or force more people into using Ticketmaster. Not stop them.

However, the CMA said, it was still concerned that the closer link between MCD and Ticketmaster “could result in less competition in promotion services to artists, leading to higher prices for concert goers, as well as a smaller variety of live music events to choose from”.

In a short statement yesterday, Desmond said, simply, that “we will work with the CMA to allay any concerns they have”.

Earlier this week the Irish regulator confirmed that a number of legally binding commitments made by Live Nation and MCD had overcome its concerns and it was therefore approving the deal. Desmond et al will be hoping for a similar outcome in the UK, so to get the green light without additional investigations by the CMA.