LONDON – U.S. live music venue operator AEG’s bid to take over the running of Wembley Arena has been referred to the Competition Commission here.
AEG currently owns and operates the sprawling O2 arena, recently the U.K. capital’s home to Justin Bieber‘s trouble-hit British tour and next month’s Sundance London music and film festviial and the Hammersmith Apollo, the venue for Hugh Laurie‘s upcoming piano concert tour and a slew of stand up comedian shows.
The AEG bid for Wembley Arena has been to referred to the Commission, an independent public body set up to conduct in-depth inquiries into mergers, markets and the regulation of the major regulated industries, amid fears that its growing dominance of venues in the British capitol could lead to higher ticket prices.
AEG inked a deal to manage Wembley Arena – a venue whose pop and rock roster reads like a who’s who of music with upcoming acts including The Who, Santana and The Smashing Pumpkins all due to appear.
The contract had been held by U.S. rival Live Nation, which recently struck a deal to host gigs at the Olympic Stadium in east London after AEG snapped up the contract it previously held for Hyde Park events.
The Office of Fair Trading has been investigating AEG’s takeover of the Wembley Arena and on Friday said it has referred the acquisition of the management contract to the Competition Commission "due to concerns the merger may substantially reduce competition in the live entertainment venue sector".
The OFT pointed out that following the deal AEG now operates the two largest London indoor venues: The O2 Arena and Wembley Arena.
"This merger would result in a major consolidation of the indoor spaces where large concerts, sports and other shows can be held in the capital and may result in higher costs for promoters to hire suitable venues, which ultimately may be passed on to consumers in the form of higher ticket prices.," said OFT senior director Jackie Holland. "As such, we believe it is appropriate that the Competition Commission reviews this merger in detail to ensure that the interests of consumers are protected".
The Competition Commission is expected to report by September, 2013.