UK-based See Tickets, one of Europe’s leading ticketing companies, is up for sale and its owner, Dutch investment firm Parcom Capital, is hoping the company will fetch as much as £120 million ($196.8 million).
The European ticket market is not as big as its North American counterpart, but whoever acquires See Tickets instantly becomes a major player in the international ticketing industry. Besides being one of the UK’s chief ticketing companies, See Tickets has divisions in Spain and Holland, which has helped the company compete against Ticketmaster’s European subsidiaries.
According to the Financial Times, which first reported the story, CTS Eventim, the German ticketing powerhouse, is among the bidders for See Tickets, as is Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which earlier this year launched its own ticketing operation with Outbox Technology and former Ticketmaster CEO Fred Rosen. In addition, UK theatre giant Ambassador Theatre Group, which bought several theaters from Live Nation in 2009, is also bidding on See Tickets.
A source with direct knowledge of the bidding, who spoke to TicketNews on a condition of anonymity, said that the possible acquisition figure quoted by the Times was “significantly inflated,” but they declined to offer more specifics. In addition to AEG/Outbox, CTS and Ambassador, several private equity firms are also reportedly interested in See Tickets.
CTS Eventim already owns See Tickets’ German operations, which it acquired in 2010, so adding the rest of the See Tickets business would round out its offering and give CTS strong footing in the UK. And, Ambassador would benefit from being able to expand its theatre ticketing efforts throughout the See Tickets operation.
Yet, perhaps the most intriguing bid comes from AEG, which in less than half a year would have gained a large footprint in the North American market and gobbled up an impressive chunk of the European market, moves that could begin to raise the hairs on the back of rival Ticketmaster’s neck.
Ticketmaster, which merged with live entertainment company Live Nation last year, is far and away the world’s dominant ticketing company, according to TicketNews’ exclusive industry rankings, but AEG and Outbox are carving out a growing list of venue clients, beginning with the 100-plus facilities AEG currently operates.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which went through a bruising, year-long regulatory investigation before their merger was approved, might sit out bidding for See Tickets because it would likely have to undergo a similar probe, according to the Times.
The key to AEG’s growth in the ticketing industry is Rosen, arguably the most influential ticketing executive of the last 30 years. Rosen created Ticketmaster’s business model of splitting convenience and other fees with venues, promoters and teams, but now he believes that practice is vulnerable. Venues want more control of their ticketing and customer data, he has said, which AEG/Outbox offers with its white label model.
Rosen, who is currently on vacation according to a company spokesperson, could not be reached for comment, but the spokesperson confirmed to TicketNews that AEG/Outbox is looking at See Tickets as a possible acquisition.