The NEC’s Managing Director Kathryn James says a new private sector structure for the Birmingham Group’s ownership would unlock significant opportunities for a number of the venue’s services. She tells CN that the Group’s national ticketing agency (Ticket Factory) and catering arm Amadeus would be among the first to benefit in this respect.
James welcomed Birmingham City Council’s decision to seek a buyer for The NEC Group. “Private ownership will enable us to grow further and faster, realising our full potential,” she added.
The Council, it is understood, has been reluctant to underwrite risk or provide any large amount of capital for overseas expansion of the venues’ services.
James noted restrictions in any new lease for potential buyers would preserve the site’s use as an events venue. “And with the fantastic array of live events at the NEC, and across the NEC Group as a whole, that will be the main attraction to purchasers,” she said.
James told CN that it was most likely a long lease would be offered to any buyer, although it was possible that the Council could still retain a minority stake in a new privatised entity.
The Council is to pre-qualify any bids and all parties but is hopeful of concluding a deal by the end of the year.
“There is no game plan to fundamentally change the mix of business,” James told CN, but acknowledged that any sale was sure to accelerate the pace of change.
James pointed out that 500 events had been held at the venue in 2013/14 and expected the exhibitions portfolio to grow to 150 in 2014/15.
Chief Executive of the NEC Group, Paul Thandi described the decision to seek a new ownership structure as “the next stage in the Group’s development”.
“A move to private sector ownership will allow our management and teams to realise opportunity, complete acquisitions, enable ambition and provide capital to be put to use with a higher degree of risk than the council can associate itself with. A new ownership structure will support our vision and ambition for future growth,” said Thandi.
Thandi noted the Group was already delivering third party management for Convention Centre Dublin and was continuing to evolve its core venues.
“When Resorts World Birmingham opens on the NEC site in 2015, the ICC will manage the multi-use banqueting and conferencing facility which will form part of the game-changing £140m integrated leisure and entertainment complex,” he noted.
“We’ve made our business scalable and our skills transferable and we’ve shown that commercialisation can breathe life into our venues,” Thandi said.
Private ownership would help The NEC Group achieve its “ultimate vision” of creating up to five NEC Groups around the globe, Thandi noted.
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