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CTS Eventim emerges as frontrunner to buy See Tickets

By Alfred Branch Jr.

CTS Eventim, which famously sparred with Live Nation and Ticketmaster after the two merged, has emerged as the likely buyer of See Tickets, the UK's second-largest ticketing company behind Ticketmaster.

Eventim, based in Germany, is Europe's largest ticketing company, so the move to acquire the British holdings of See Tickets would fortify its position as a formidable player in the growing European market. Live Nation has even tried to boost its profile in the union with acquisitions in France and Spain, and has identified Europe as one of its growth areas.

Currently, Ticketmaster controls in excess of 40 percent of the UK ticketing market, while See Tickets holds about 20 percent. The UK market is more fragmented than its U.S. counterpart because venues, teams and promoters use multiple ticketing companies to sell tickets, unlike in the U.S. where exclusive deals between ticketing companies — usually Ticketmaster — and the content provider are the norm. Live Nation likely avoided a play for See Tickets because it could have faced severe antitrust regulatory pressures; the company's merger with Ticketmaster was preliminarily shot down in the UK but was later approved.

According to published reports, Eventim is believed to have beaten out Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) for See, and could pay as much as $194 million for the company. When Eventim might make an announcement about the purchase is not known, and officials are not speaking about it.

"We do not comment on the sale of any of our interests," Piet-Hein de Jager, investment director for See Tickets' parent company Parcom Capital, said in a statement to MusicWeek.

Back in May, Eventim tapped former See Tickets Chairman and CEO Nick Blackburn to run its UK division, which was likely a precursor to the company making a play for See.

At the time of Blackburn's appointment, Eventim CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg hinted in a statement that the company had big plans for the former head of See Tickets.

Schulenberg's statement read: "Nick Blackburn has been a driving force in ticketing in the UK for more than two decades, and we are happy he has accepted our offer to become Chairman of our UK operations. His appointment underpins EVENTIM's claim to be one of the leading ticketing services providers in the UK."

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