NEC Group sold to another private equity firm
The NEC Group has been sold to another private equity firm.
Funds managed by Blackstone have acquired the live venue and conference group which owns the NEC and Genting Arena in Solihull and the ICC and Arena Birmingham in the city centre.
The confirmation today brings to an end speculation that Blackstone was in line to buy the group from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.
Although the NEC Group has not announced a sale price, recent reports suggested Blackstone would pay £800 million for the group – a significant climb from the £307 million which LDC paid Birmingham City Council back in January 2015.
This prompted some city MPs last week to question whether the city council negotiated a bad deal when it sold to LDC.
Founded in 1976, the NEC Group has grown into one of the UK’s largest live events businesses and regular hosts household names such as The Cycle Show, Grand Designs Live and Crufts.
Its concert arenas have played host to global artists such as Britney Spears and Ed Sheeran and live sports including the World Indoor Athletics championships earlier this year.
It estimates that seven million people attend 750 events every year at its venues and its other businesses include catering arm Amadeus and ticketing agency The Ticket Factory.
The group recently expanded its offering by opening the new Bears Grylls Adventure attraction next to the Genting Arena and the Legoland Discovery Centre at Arena Birmingham.
The NEC is also due to host nine sports as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games when it comes to Birmingham.
Since taking the group private nearly four years ago, LDC has supported a four-year programme aimed at enhancing sites, facilities and customer experience as well as broadening the range of events across the group’s estate.
NEC Group chief executive Paul Thandi said: “Blackstone’s track record in scaling companies, sector knowledge and unrivalled real estate capabilities, make them the ideal new partner for NEC Group to realise the next phase of our ambitious growth strategy.
“All of our teams and partners look forward to working closely with the world-class team as we embark on becoming the definitive name in events and exhibitions while continuing to focus on innovations and new customer experience offerings for all our customer groups.”
Lionel Assant, European head of private equity at Blackstone, added: “NEC Group is iconic and we are excited about our new partnership as we look to leverage our firm’s capabilities in support of the team.”
Blackstone was advised by Moelis. LDC was advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.