SFX Entertainment, an increasingly prominent presence in U.S and UK theatre, has announced the acquisition of Midland Concert Promotions Group, Limited (MCP), which it describes as a leading concert promotion company and motor sports venue operator in the United Kingdom. The purchase marks another step in SFX's ongoing international expansion program, whereby the conglomerate has acquired venues, promoters and exclusive licenses for sports events. The MCP purchase price was not disclosed at press time.
The SFX juggernaut shows little sign of slowing. By midday Sept. 21, just two hours after SFX had announced its acquisition of MCP, the company's stock was up by almost a full point from its 37 1/2 opening.
In the past year or more, SFX acquisitions have been numerous and widespread. Yet, they have always dovetailed with the company's stated idea of an "integrated franchise that promotes and produces a broad variety of live entertainment events locally, regionally and nationally."
SFX reports controlling 116 venues, including 16 amphitheatres in each of the top markets in the United States. In addition, the company claims to own or operate venues in 31 of the top 50 domestic markets.
SFX reports that in 1998, approximately 50 million people attended some 22,050 events promoted and/or produced by the company. These events included over 8,150 music concerts, 12,650 theatrical shows, 800 family entertainment shows and 450 specialized sports shows. Both the scope of SFX's acquisitions and the diversity in its international profile are large. By way of example, more than a year ago, SFX bought up New York concert promoter Delsner/Slater. Then, last July, the company purchased the vast majority of assets at the beleaguered Canadian theatrical producer, Livent. In the past several weeks, SFX has acquired a dozen venues in the United States through the multi-million dollar purchase of Universal Concerts. The flurry of acquisitions, which affects agents and promoters, has some entertainment sources bristling.
"They're buying all these promoters and venues up," one music industry source said, "and trying to deal with artists directly."
Todays' purchase of MCP is not the only recent acquisition by SFX in the United Kingdom.
In early August, Playbill On-Line reported on the SFX purchase of the London-based Apollo Leisure Group for £156 million. Soon after, SFX was also said to be considering the acquisition of part of the Stoll Moss empire. Combined with the ongoing bidding for Crescent, another West End rival, this meant that more than half of London's theatreland could change ownership by the end of the year. However, conventional wisdom had it that SFX's purchase of Stoll Moss -- which comprises 10 West End theatres and is otherwise valued at £100 million -- would probably not get the green light from Britain's Competition Commission, although a partial sale of the group might.
SFX boasts that MCP has run recent successful promotions with such music acts as Billy Joel, Elton John, Metallica, U2, Bryan Adams, UB40, Aerosmith and Simply Red.
MCP also has an event production division which produces European concert tours and corporate events. In motor sports, MCP has a 25-year lease to operate the Donington Park Motor Racing Circuit in central England, which presents World Championship motorcycle racing, including the British Grand Prix and International SportsCar, GT and Touring Car events. Donington also features a large exhibition center and the facility has been used for music concerts with a crowd capacity of up to 100,000. Anchor events there included the original Monsters of Rock event which was held at Donington for 20 years.
MCP also is the exclusive promoter of highly successful World Wrestling Federation (WWF) UK events and is negotiating with the WWF to expand into other markets. It currently produces all U.K. pay-per-view events for the WWF.
SFX Entertainment executive chairman Robert F. X. Sillerman said that the MCP transaction was "a great complement to our previously announced acquisition of Apollo Leisure Group and The Barry Clayman Corporation. Merging these sports and music businesses with our growing sports representation business in the UK, as well as with the strong position which Apollo enjoys in the theatre area, creates a company that has a position in the U.K. similar to that which SFX already enjoys in the U.S.''
MCP president Tim Parsons said SFX has redrawn the landscape in the live event industry. "We are delighted to become a part of this exciting revolution," Parsons said. "This alliance will provide us with the ability to exploit unrealized opportunities, including the true potential of Donington Park, and also to meet the many new challenges of the Millennium.''
-- By Murdoch McBride