U.K.'s biggest music store chain expands

LONDON — The U.K.’s biggest specialist music retailer, HMV, is expanding into the area of live music with a deal that will see the chain co-own 11 venues with Mama Group.

The venues will include a number of iconic London premises such as Hammersmith Apollo, The Forum, The Garage, Jazz Cafe, Heaven, Borderline, G-A-Y Bar and G-A-Y Late, as well as the Picture House in Edinburgh, Moshulu in Aberdeen and the Birmingham Institute.

The joint venture sees HMV paying an initial £18 million ($26.5 million) for a 50% stake in the joint-venture Mean Fiddler Group with Mama staff continuing to operate the venues on a day-to-day basis and HMV getting naming rights on certain properties, such as the Hammersmith venue, which becomes the HMV Apollo.

The partners also say they will actively consider expansion where high-quality, larger venues become available.

HMV chief executive Simon Fox said: “Music is very much part of our DNA, and by extending the HMV brand into the growing live music and entertainment market, our customers will be able as never before to access and experience music in all of its forms via HMV.”

In a separate move, HMV announced that it has bought 14 stores from the administrators of rival retailer Zavvi.

While Zavvi and other music retailers such as Woolworths have been unable to survive, HMV reported Thursday that its sales in the U.K. and Ireland had increased 5.8% over the five weeks to Jan. 3.

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