NEC Group bought by US firm Blackstone

Private equity firm Blackstone has acquired live events business the NEC Group, which operates a number of venues in the Midlands, as well as The Ticket Factory.

Blackstone, a US-based company, has acquired the NEC from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the Express and Star newspaper reported that the acquisition is rumoured to be worth around £800m (€909m/$1.053bn). The price would dwarf the £307m LDC paid for the group three years ago in a deal with Birmingham City Council.

The NEC operates Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre, Genting Arena (pictured) and Arena Birmingham, along with ticketing agency The Ticket Factory and caterer Amadeus.

LDC originally backed a management buyout of the NEC in January 2015 and has since supported a four-year transformation programme to enhance the group’s sites, facilities and customer experience.

Following Blackstone’s acquisition of the company, NEC Group chief executive Paul Thandi said: “Blackstone’s proven track record in scaling companies, experience of the live events sector and unrivalled real estate capabilities, make them the ideal new partner for NEC Group to realise the next phase of our ambitious growth strategy. All of our teams and partners look forward to working closely with the world class team as we embark on becoming the definitive name in events and exhibitions, while continuing to focus on innovations and new customer experience offerings for all our customers groups.”

Lionel Assant, European head of private equity at Blackstone, added: “Under the leadership of Paul Thandi, a best in class management team and the support of LDC, the NEC has transformed its main site into a leading leisure, entertainment and business destination, which continues to benefit from a diverse and loyal customer base. We have tremendous respect for what has been achieved; NEC Group is both iconic and truly unique and we are excited about our new partnership as we look to leverage our firm’s capabilities in support of the team.”

The NEC hosts a number of high-profile exhibitions, including Crufts, Spring Fair and Grand Designs Live. The NEC is also due to host nine sports during Birmingham’s staging of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Image: Elliott Brown