Comcast has agreed to merge its Spectra arena management and hospitality unit with Oak View Group for an undisclosed sum, giving the Los Angeles-based live venue developer an inroad into food, concessions, ticketing and content development as it seeks to expand its reach.
Spectra is part of Comcast Spectacor, which owns and manages several live sports and entertainment venues across the country. Spectra has about 2,500 employees and provides food, beverages, and customer service to arenas like Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia; the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; Aztec Stadium in San Diego; and PayPal Park in San Jose, California. Its management unit offers event booking and content development, finance and administration, marketing and sales, operations, ticketing and box-office management.
According to reports, Comcast and Atairos, an investment company founded in 2015 by former Comcast vice chairman and chief financial officer Michael Angelakis, will sell their interests in Spectra to Oak View Group, which will help the company become a more full-service player in the industry. OVG has six owned and operated venues with another six-to-ten facilities in the pipeline, while Spectra’s management business has about 200 clients, mostly mid-sized and smaller arenas.
Oak View Group was formed in 2015 by former AEG chief executive Tim Leiweke and entertainment industry veteran Irving Azoff. Azoff’s Front Line Management has managed iconic rock groups like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Bon Jovi and Van Halen, as well as current stars like Lizzo, Christina Aguilera and Harry Styles. In the past he has also served as CEO of Ticketmaster, chairman of Live Nation and CEO of MSG Entertainment.
"This merger brings together two dynamic leaders in the live events industry with complementary capabilities that will deliver a broad array of services to our clients,” Leiweke said in a press release. “OVG's core competencies in arena development and corporate sponsorships, coupled with Spectra's leadership in food and beverage services will create a full-service live events company that will deliver a compelling and highly competitive set of offerings that meet our clients' evolving needs. I look forward to collaborating with the talented team at Spectra and bringing together our two organizations to create something truly unique."
Currently, Oak View Group is spearheading the $1 billion-plus transformation of Seattle’s former Key Arena into Climate Pledge Arena (future home of the NHL Seattle Kraken). Other owned and operated properties include UBS Arena, home of the NHL New York Islanders, in Elmont, N.Y., Enmarket Arena in Savannah, Georgia.; Co-Op Live in Manchester, England; Moody Center in Austin, Texas; and Coachella Valley Arena in Palm Desert, California.
"This is an exciting development for Spectra and an important step in our journey to provide unparalleled services to our clients along with exciting growth opportunities for our team members as part of a larger, more diverse organization,” Spectra CEO Dave Scott said in a press release. “This merger accelerates our existing strategy and will lead to significant opportunities to cross-sell food, beverage and sponsorship services across our combined client base. I look forward to working with Tim, Irving and the OVG team to enhance the future of live events for our valued clients."
The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, pending regulatory approval. Following the close of the transaction, OVG will remain headquartered in Los Angeles, with Spectra HQ remaining in Philadelphia.
UBS Investment Bank acted as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP acted as legal advisor to Oak View Group. Moelis & Company LLC acted as exclusive financial advisor and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP acted as legal advisor to Spectra.
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Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.