US giant plans Mean Fiddler bid

The American radio and pop concert giant Clear Channel Communications is preparing a takeover bid for Mean Fiddler, the owner of the eponymous London venue and the Reading and Leeds music festivals.

Vince Power, Mean Fiddler's founder and 34.9 per cent shareholder, said yesterday he had agreed to sell his stake to Clear Channel for 60p a share, valuing the business at £37m.

Clear Channel is making the bid through Hamsard, a joint venture it formed with Denis Desmond's MCD Productions, which owns 24.3 per cent of Mean Fiddler and also owns the Brixton Academy and the V Festival.

The deal will bring together every major UK pop festival and most of the country's leading venues under common ownership. Mean Fiddler comes with a 32 per cent stake in Glastonbury as well as the Leeds and Reading festivals. It also owns the London Astoria.

Clear Channel owns the Hammersmith Apollo, the Manchester Apollo, a 50 per cent stake in the Point venue in Dublin and the Milton Keynes Bowl. It also manages the summer pop concerts in Hyde Park, which have included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who recently played there to 255,000 people over three nights.

Mean Fiddler's part-ownership of Glastonbury has been viewed as being crucial to turning the West Country festival into Europe's most successful annual pop music event. Clear Channel refused to comment about its plans for the Mean Fiddler venues.

Although Mr Power has signed an agreement to sell his stake at 60p a share, Hamsard said a full offer was subject to due diligence and could eventually be made at a lower price than 60p. The agreement with Mr Power is subject to Hamsard making a formal offer within the next 30 days, which gives the new company time to complete due diligence and is seen as a cooling-off period for all parties concerned.

Mean Fiddler's recent corporate past has been fraught with difficulties. Last autumn Mr Power announced he was selling his stake and quitting the company only to return a few days later after a bust-up with his anointed successor, Dean James. Mr Power removed Mr James from the company and cancelled plans for a £5.6m fund-raising and an acquisition of a music download technology company.

The deal with Hamsard will boost Clear Channel's UK concert promotion and venue-ownership business. It has worked with Mean Fiddler to promote one-off concerts featuring big name US artists such as Britney Spears.

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