SFX poised to capture Avalon

$22 million deal close to completion

Capping months of on-and-off negotiations, New York-based SFX Entertainment is close to acquiring Avalon Attractions, the L.A.-based concert promotion firm led by Brian Murphy, for $22 million, according to sources. The deal also includes Irvine Meadows Amphitheater and Avalon’s rights to build a proposed amphitheater in Camarillo.

SFX and Universal Concerts have both been trying for months to purchase the 20,000-seat Irvine Meadows, a strategically placed venue that competes mainly with the nearby Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, but often draws concert business away from such major venues as Universal Amphitheatre and the Great Western Forum.

Camarillo is without a major venue, which forces concertgoers to drive into Los Angeles or Santa Barbara to attend major shows.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow SFX to purchase the rights to build the new 16,000-seat venue from Camarillo Amphitheater Managing Partners (CAMP), an affiliate of Avalon.

CAMP had been formed to build and set up the concert facility, which also would boast an 18-hole golf course and other enhancements.

Construction on hold

Construction of the new venue has not been scheduled, as two environmental groups have filed lawsuits to prevent the development of the 320 acres, which the groups claim contain needed wetlands and fragile biological habitats. A June court date has been set.

The Avalon package does not include Warner-Avalon, the company’s Nashville-based pairing with Warner Music Group.

Sources caution that the Avalon deal has been close to being inked twice before, with last-minute maneuverings by the parties stalling the pact.

Insiders note that SFX thought it had reached an agreement in principle last week, but execs associated with Avalon balked at some of the payout terms.

End in sight

Barring any last-minute complications, insiders said the deal could close by the end of this week, giving SFX two additional venues to its existing 42-shed lineup.

In Murphy, SFX would also be getting one of the top promoters in the important L.A. marketplace.

SFX execs, reached Wednesday, declined comment.

SFX, under the guidance of prexy and CEO Mike Farrel and chairman Bob Sillerman, has been using the billion-dollar war chest it got through its sale in July of a chain of radio stations to buy its way into the live entertainment business by acquiring key promoters and the venues they own or control.

Late last year SFX acquired several of the industry’s top promoters, including the San Francisco-based Bill Graham Presents.

The acquisitions have sparked industry concern that SFX will use its clout to circumvent the decades-old process of booking acts through agents, and will create tours by dealing directly with the artists and have them play only SFX-owned or controlled venues. SFX execs previously have denied that assertion.

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