A COUNCIL official has dismissed suggestions that there is a commercial link between a proposed deal for St David’s Hall and negotiations behind plans to build a new arena in Cardiff Bay.
A member of Cardiff Council’s economy and culture scrutiny committee, Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless, said at a meeting of the committee on Thursday May 31 that some people think the proposed deal between Academy Music Group (AMG) and Cardiff Council for the running of St David’s Hall is a “sweetener” to Live Nation to build the new Cardiff Bay arena.
Live Nation and AMG are both separate companies. However, Live Nation does own a large part of AMG.
The company is also set to be one of the joint operators of a new 17,000 capacity arena which will be part of a wider development of Atlantic Wharf.
Cardiff Council’s director of economic development, Neil Hanratty, said at Thursday’s economy and culture scrutiny committee that there is no connection between the two proposals.
Cllr Brown Reckless asked Mr Hanratty: “Am I right in understanding that Live Nation, or entities which Live Nation has an interest in, are in negotiations with the Council to build an Arena, and enter into this St. David’s Hall lease?
“If the Council is saying that the Arena and St. David’s Hall transactions are not linked, please could it be explained how the two transactions are not linked.
“I find it hard to believe the two transactions are not linked at some level given the wider relationship?
“I have had people say to me that they think the St. David’s Hall transaction is a “sweetener” to Live Nation to build the Arena, and please could it be explained if that is a statement the Council would agree with or not?
“Will the Council be receiving money from one of the transactions, and paying money into the other transaction, and if so can the amounts please be disclosed so people can understand what is going on?”
With the council facing a £24 million budget gap and the repair bill for St David’s Hall rising into the tens of millions, the local authority has looked to finding a new operator for the classical music venue.
It has agreed in principle to AMG’s offer to take on the running of St David’s Hall, which would include a commitment to protect the venue’s classical music programme and take on the building’s maintenance costs of about £38 million.
Mr Hanratty said: “The arena was a procurement process which was open and transparent and fully in the public domain and we have been going through this process completely separately.
“There is no connection. I can’t account for what people think and what they say.”
He later added in relation to Cllr Borwn-Reckless’ question: “I suspected your question related to a commercial connection between the two projects.
“My response was that there was no commercial connection between the two projects.
“There are people involved in both of those transactions, both on the council’s side and Live Nation’s side.”
Cardiff Council is currently looking to publish a voluntary ex-ante (VEAT) notice of intent which will allow competitors to come forward with a challenge to AMG’s bid to run St David’s Hall.
The council isn’t expected to consider a final lease agreement with AMG until July, provided that no challenges to AMG’s offer have been made on the conclusion of the VEAT process.