Will Coors Amphitheater, SDSU's Cox Arena, and SDSU's Open Air Theater be swallowed up by Clear Channel?
The publisher of a major concert industry publication says that is very likely.
"[Clear Channel] would seem like the most likely buyer," said Gary Bongiovanni, publisher of Pollstar.
Last week House of Blues Entertainment, which owns the Coors Amphitheater and has exclusive rights to book the Cox Arena and the Open Air Theater, announced it was taking the first steps to sell its concert division called House of Blues Concerts.
The San Antonio--based Clear Channel conglomerate controls the largest radio group in the U.S., Clear Channel Communications, as well as the largest concert company, Clear Channel Entertainment. In most major U.S. cities, Clear Channel Entertainment has exclusive rights over the largest venues in town. In 2003 Clear Channel was the biggest U.S. concert firm, selling 27 million tickets throughout the year. House of Blues Concerts was a distant second, selling 6 million.
San Diego is the only city where House of Blues operates the largest concert venues in town. In Dallas, Atlanta, and Denver, both Clear Channel and House of Blues share control of the concert scene. Clear Channel dominates the concert business in every other major American city, according to Pollstar's Bongiovanni. Locally, Clear Channel only controls the San Diego Sports Arena.
"It was a bad year for concerts," said one local promoter who chose not to be named. "Maybe [House of Blues Concerts] thought their best option now was to sell."
"It was not a good year for large concerts," said Bongiovanni. "House of Blues was very conservative this year. I think they passed on more shows than they booked."
House of Blues Concerts' local staff is headquartered in the administrative offices of Coors Amphitheater. General manger David Swift forwarded questions to House of Blues public relations director Jack Gannon.
"I can't comment who the potential suitors are," said Gannon. One insider suggested a major reason the division might be being sold is because House of Blues has taken on too much debt. When asked about HoB's level of indebtedness, Gannon said, "We don't give out that information." House of Blues is privately held.
Gannon said House of Blues would announce by February whether the concert division would be spun off. Gannon explained that the sale of the concert unit is completely separate from the House of Blues nightclub division. The ninth House of Blues nightclub is currently being remodeled in the old Woolworth Building between Fifth and Sixth on Broadway in downtown San Diego and is set to open in "late spring."
Should Clear Channel in fact buy out House of Blues Concerts, Clear Channel's San Diego empire would include Coors Amphitheater, the Sports Arena, Cox Arena, the Open Air Theater, and 13 radio stations.
When Bongiovanni was asked if a Clear Channel acquisition of House of Blues Concerts wouldn't trigger federal anti-trust action, he said, "Do you know who's president...? I think they [the Bush administration] would let it proceed."