U Concerts’ $30 mil lands Silva/Hewitt

United also acquired, Jam in promoter's sight

In a move that further shrinks the ranks of the independent concert promoters, Universal Concerts has ponied up $30 million to acquire a pair of key concert promoters including Bill Silva/Andrew Hewitt Presents, a potent promotion outfit with venue strongholds in San Diego and the Hollywood Bowl.

Universal is also close to acquiring potent Salt Lake City-based promoter United Concerts and is in serious talks to add leading Midwestern promoter Jam Prods. to its portfolio.

The $10 million Silva/Hewitt deal pacts the widely respected impresarios with Universal Concerts for five years, while giving them a wide berth to promote shows throughout California using both Universal-owned venues and outside houses.

Universal’s $20 million acquisition of United Concerts, which is best known for placing shows at the Delta Center in Utah, significantly adds to Universal’s existing holdings in the surrounding states and makes it the preeminent concert industry player in the Western States region.

The moves signal Universal’s shift from a fairly passive promoter of shows outside its core of 10 existing and strategically placed venues throughout the U.S., to a more aggressive challenger to other concert promoters, including those linked with behemoth New York-based SFX Entertainment, which has recently snapped up a number of top concert promoters.

In recent months, Universal has expanded its booking activity by producing such shows as Celine Dion, Elton John and the Spice Girls at L.A.’s Great Western Forum, gigs that would typically have gone to competitor Avalon Attractions. (SFX recently acquired Avalon).

The Silva/Hewitt deal give Universal a vehicle with which to advance its open promotion business throughout the Western states, and also gives Universal two top-notch and complementary venues in the lucrative L.A. marketplace: its flagship Universal Amphitheater and the venerable Hollywood Bowl.

The deal also gives Universal the Cox Arena in San Diego and the open air theater at San Diego State University, both of which are under exclusive pacts with Silva/Hewitt.

It returns the Joint, the venue inside the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, to Universal’s aegis, as the company had the booking pact until it was shifted to Silva/Hewitt a few years ago. Universal has stepped up its concert dealmaking in Vegas by recently producing shows such as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Buffett at the MGM Grand’s concert arena.

Silva/Universal can now challenge such stalwarts as Bill Graham Presents, another SFX-owned outfit which has for decades held sway in the San Francisco marketplace.

Universal is also building a quartet of new venues, according to sources, as part of a strategy of developing amphitheaters in key regions, rather than spending large sums on acquisitions.

It currently owns seven stateside venues, including the Gorge in Washington, the Starplex in Dallas, the Blossom Music Center in Cleveland and three Canadian houses.

It is set next month to bow a 20,000 seat amphitheater in San Diego, and has houses in Cleveland, Minneapolis and Chicago on the drawing boards.