Denis Desmond and Live Nation cleared to take control of Isle Of Wight festival

UK competition body gives green light to deal after investigators take summer field trip

Arcade Fire perform on day three of the Isle of Wight Festival 2017. Photograph: David Jensen/PA Wire

Arcade Fire perform on day three of the Isle of Wight Festival 2017. Photograph: David Jensen/PA Wire

 

A joint venture between Irish impresario Denis Desmond and global music behemoth Live Nation has received the go-ahead from competition regulators in the UK to take control of the Isle of Wight (IoW) music festival.

LN-Gaiety Holdings, of which Mr Desmond owns 49 per cent and the US company the rest, can now proceed with its plan to buy 75 per cent of the IoW festival, which this year featured acts such as David Guetta, Arcade Fire, Rod Stewart, Run DMC and the Kaiser Chiefs. It attracts more than 40,000 festival-goers to the four-day event on the island just off England’s south coast.

The buyout was first announced last March, when LN-Gaiety struck a deal to purchase a majority stake from promoter John Giddings, who has operated the IoW festival since 2002.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) intervened the following month, however, and ordered LN-Gaiety, the biggest festival operator in the UK, and IoW to operate separately until it had finished its investigation.

LN-Gaiety has up to 50 per cent of the market in the UK for large camping festivals, according to documents analysed by the CMA.

Mr Desmond’s joint venture with Live Nation already operates about 20 major UK outdoor music events, including the Reading and Leeds festivals, and the V Festival, which takes place across two venues simultaneously.

Investigation

The authority concluded a five-month investigation in recent weeks, however, and found that the IoW deal would not restrict competition in the large outdoor festivals market.

As part of the process, the CMA’s investigators attended the IoW festival last summer to survey festivalgoers, who were also attracted by acts including Imelda May and Rag ’N’ Bone Man. They found that most of the attendees would not attend another music festival in place of IoW were it to discontinue.

They also found it was unlikely that LN-Gaiety would restrict the booking of top music acts by other competing festivals.

Mr Desmond’s company will assume control just in time for the 50th anniversary IoW festival, which will take place next June.

Separately, accounts filed in Dublin this week for EP Republic, the subsidiary of LN-Gaiety that operates Electric Picnic in Laois, suggest the event made profits in 2016 of about €1.6 million.

Recent accounts in the UK for LN-Gaiety show sales at the overall group last year rose by 22 per cent to £202 million. The accounts also state a dividend of £3.2 million was paid to “non-controlling interests”, suggesting that Mr Desmond, who owns MCD Productions, took a slice.

The businessman did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.