Viagogo is reportedly willing to sell off all but the U.S. and Canada-based StubHub businesses to appease regulators, according to reporting from the UK. The proposed sale of the assets held for less than a year are in response to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which has thus far held up the $4 billion merger over competition concerns.
“We look forward to working with the CMA to deliver a comprehensive solution which addresses their concerns, and we believe this proposal would achieve that,” a Viagogo spokesperson told TicketNews regarding its proposal.
StubHub was sold by longtime parent company eBay to Viagogo – helmed by StubHub co-founder Erik Baker – earlier this year. The CMA, which has had a long history of dispute with Viagogo, has held the deal from being fully realized since that time, and announced it was provisionally blocking the merger last month. In its decision, it cited that the tie-up of the two ticket resale marketplaces would significantly reduce competition in the UK market, due to the two companies holding more than 90 percent of the market share in the country.
The proposed remedy to allay those concerns would involve the sale of all non-North American assets, including customer information and data. StubHub would no longer hold those customers, nor would it engage in marketing directly to UK customers or use search engine marketing on google.co.uk. “The purchaser will therefore be provided with the customer and transaction data necessary to compete in secondary ticketing in the UK and beyond,” according to the proposed action.
In essence, Viagogo hopes that by selling the StubHub brand and customer base in the UK and EU, regulators will allow it to retain that brand and its North American customer base, while it remains operational in its traditional EU/UK markets. Viagogo was founded by Baker in England following his departure from StubHub, and is based in Switzerland.
Should the CMA sign off on the plan, the next step would be finding a potential buyer during a time when every ticket resale operation is struggling to make it through the coronavirus pandemic intact. The deal would include the sale of the Ticketbis brand and websites, as well as Viagogo retaining the liability related to events that have been cancelled since the start of the pandemic for which customers are owed vouchers good towards future event ticket purchases or refunds.
Prior to Viagogo’s purchase of StubHub, it was rumored that Vivid Seats, Silver Lake and KKR & Co. were among those considering bids for the marketplace once eBay had announced its intentions to sell. Vivid Seats is an established marketplace brand in the United States with major financial backing from venture capitalists. Silver Lake is a major investor in Oak View Group and TEG. It is unclear whether any would weigh the purchase of just the non-North American branches of StubHub’s business. Also in question is the specifics of how the deal might work – with reports indicating that it could include a blackout period and potential for Viagogo to re-acquire the StubHub UK business down the road.
Longtime Viagogo critic the FanFair Alliance was predictably on the offensive at the news, tweeting that “Viagogo is a discredited and toxic business. Any proposal they make should be viewed with extreme caution. This “deal” appears to boil down to a lease of StubHub UK for 3 year, opening the door for Eric Baker to take it back in 2023. We would urge the CMA to reject it outright.” Fanfair has previously called on the CMA to reject the deal on multiple occasions. Its founders are also investors in the Twickets “face value” resale system, which is a competitor to both Viagogo and StubHub.