UK watchdog approves £2.9bn Viagogo and StubHub merger

Resale website StubHub’s international arm will be sold to US firm Digital Fuel Capital to meet the CMA’s conditions

The $4bn (£2.9bn) merger of controversial ticket resale websites Viagogo and StubHub can go ahead after the UK competition regulator approved a plan that will see StubHub’s international operations sold to a new entrant to the market, US investment group Digital Fuel Capital.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had ordered Viagogo to sell StubHub’s operations outside North America, after concluding that the combined entity would have handled about 90% of resold tickets for gigs, sports events and theatre in the UK.

Viagogo said Digital Fuel Capital, based in Newton, Massachusetts, had agreed to buy StubHub International for an undisclosed fee.

Digital Fuel Capital has largely invested in US businesses such as Rugs USA and artificial Christmas foliage firm National Tree Company, and describes its strategy as investing “at the intersection of analytics, art and technology”.

The business practices of Viagogo and StubHub have repeatedly come under scrutiny from the CMA and music industry groups, who have highlighted concerns about consumers being misled and their relationships with powerful touts accused of exploiting genuine fans.

The sale breathes new life into a merger that Forbes had called the “worst deal in history”, partly due to the CMA’s intervention, but largely because it was agreed just as the pandemic shut down live events globally.

It also completes a reunion of two businesses started by US entrepreneur Eric Baker, who co-founded StubHub before falling out with startup partner Jeff Fluhr.

Baker later moved to London to set up Viagogo as a European competitor to StubHub, which was sold to eBay in 2007 for $310m.

In buying StubHub back from the online auctioneer, Baker regains control of the empires he co-founded, excluding StubHub International.

Cris Miller, the vice president of business development at Viagogo, said: “We appreciate the CMA’s role in bringing the merger to this conclusion, and we look forward to sharing more details about the integration of the two businesses with our loyal customers and partners very soon.

“As the live events industry emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, robust competition in the ticketing market is needed more than ever and Viagogo will continue to take its essential role in the live events industry very seriously. Viagogo and StubHub will always remain committed to working with regulators, while providing safe and secure platforms for people to buy and sell tickets to events all over the world.”

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

Digital Fuel Capital’s president, Carson Biederman, said: “We are thrilled to become the new owners of StubHub International. After a long time and process, the teams in London, Madrid, Bilbao and Berlin will now form a new independent company.

“Together, we look forward to growing StubHub International as an agile and competitive ticket marketplace focused on helping fans access live experiences and transfer tickets securely.”


Rob Davies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Viagogo offers UK regulator deal in StubHub merger bid
Ticket seller proposes keeping US and Canada but selling rest of StubHub’s resale business

Joanna Partridge

10, Nov, 2020 @3:54 PM

Article image
Most tickets on Viagogo and Stubhub sold by 'professional resellers'
Watchdog’s look into secondary ticketing shows biggest 10% of resellers make up between 80% and 100% of sales

Rob Davies

01, Nov, 2020 @1:03 PM

Article image
Competition watchdog investigates Viagogo over £3bn StubHub takeover
CMA is inviting comments about impact of ticket sales company’s purchase of rival

Rob Davies

13, Dec, 2019 @12:48 PM

Article image
Competition watchdog increases pressure on Viagogo-StubHub deal
The Competition and Markets Authority is worried that $4bn deal will cut consumer choice

Rob Davies

11, Jun, 2020 @1:06 PM

Article image
Competition watchdog intervenes in Viagogo's $4bn takeover of StubHub
Regulator says deal between controversial ticket resale firms would harm consumers

Rob Davies

22, Oct, 2020 @10:29 AM

Article image
StubHub and Viagogo offices raided in ticket touting investigation
Competition and Markets Authority officials seize data relating to schemes that allegedly benefit industrial-scale touts

Rob Davies

10, Nov, 2017 @3:00 AM

Article image
Competition watchdog warns Viagogo court action will continue
CMA challenges ticket seller’s claim it was exonerated by legal ruling, alleging it still breaches much of court order

Rob Davies

18, Jul, 2019 @2:24 PM

Article image
Watchdog drops Viagogo legal case after changes to resale site
CMA says challenges in forcing ticket seller to comply with UK law shows it needs more powers

Rob Davies

05, Sep, 2019 @12:29 PM

Article image
Viagogo faces court for failing to protect UK consumers
Regulator says secondary ticketing website has ignored its demands to make changes

Rupert Jones

25, Apr, 2018 @11:38 AM

Article image
Viagogo's $4bn takeover of StubHub partially blocked
Watchdog orders ticket resale firm to sell StubHub’s non-North American operations to protect consumers

Rob Davies

02, Feb, 2021 @11:41 AM