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Newly strengthened Academy Music Group eyes up further expansion

test 24 April 2007

UK: Less than a month after the deal that saw Live Nation and Gaiety Investments acquire a controlling 56% stake in the business, it has emerged that long-established venue owner/operator Academy Music Group (AMG) is in negotiations to take on a further two UK sites. Viewed in tandem with the imminent refurbishment of the Oxford Zodiac and the February purchase of the Brighton Hippodrome, the possible development attests to AMG’s ever-increasing profile in British live music, writes David Davies.

AMG already owns 12 venues around the UK in cities including Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and London, where its sites include the Carling Academy Brixton and Shepherd’s Bush Empire. However, the recent Live Nation/Gaiety deal – which also resulted in a substantial increase in the shareholding of promoters Bob Angus (Metropolis Music) and Simon Moran (SJM Concerts) – appears to pave the way to AGM taking a greater share of the UK’s live music network.

As it turns out, this could be imminent. “We are currently in negotiation on two sites in key UK cities to open early 2008,” says Academy Music Group CEO John Northcote (pictured). “They will be in the region of 2,000-3,000 capacity main rooms, with smaller rooms at 200-500 capacity, continuing our expansion of the Carling Academy 2 brand, primarily aimed at exposing new and emerging talent on the touring circuit.”

With or without any extra venues, AMG already has a busy schedule lined up for the rest of the year. The Oxford Zodiac, purchased by the group last November, is to be the subject of a _2m refurbishment in the coming months that will see it reopen at a multi-site venue in September. The four-month programme will increase the total building capacity from 750 to 1,150 following the acquisition of the adjacent retail outlet.

The company has also recently added the Brighton Hippodrome to its portfolio in a move that will return the 109-year-old venue to entertainment use for the first time since the mid 1960s, when it hosted performances by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, among many others.


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