As initially reported by Richmond BizSense, the National music venue at 708 E. Broad St. was purchased Sept. 30 for $6.7 million by an entity tied to Los Angeles-based AEG Live, one of the largest entertainment promoters in the world. AEG Live also purchased the National’s sister venue, the NorVa in Norfolk a few days prior.
RIC Capital Ventures LLC, which owns the venue, was embroiled in a legal dispute among its owners for nearly a year -- a suit filed by minority investors James River Entertainment.
The purchase of the building by AEG Live and its connections means more shows and bigger artists for the venue, according to manager Bill Reid, who will continue to run the venue with booker Rick Mersel, who will continue to book both venues.
“You’re going to see the same employees working [at the National]. It’s business as usual, it's just an opportunity we now have to partner with a phenomenal presence in the music business,” Reid says. “It gives us a chance to expand upon our creative vision.”
City records assessed the property at $11.06 million, but Reid says that largely was because of historic tax credits: AEG Live "is just buying the building, they’re not buying the business. They just want the space."
In regards to the former lawsuit brought by minor investors, Reid characterized that as unfortunate but says it worked out in the end.
“That was just a negotiating ploy -- our minor stockholders knew we were discussing a sale, they wanted to leverage their position,” he says. “That was how they chose to do it. It was unfortunate, but it all came out well in the end.”
AEG Live now owning a building brings some competition to the main promoter in town, SMG Richmond.
“We’re extremely excited AEG is increasing their presence in the market. We’ve worked with them for many, many years and look forward to them becoming our neighbors,” Dolly Vogt, regional manager for SMG Richmond, said by e-mail.
Currently, SMG books most of the major venues in town. “I think this is one more instance that reinforces Richmond as a strong market in the entertainment industry," Vogt said. "We couldn’t be happier and wish them well in their new venture.”
AEG is part of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Staples Center in Los Angeles, several professional sports team including Major League Soccer teams and the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings. It also owns the Bluebird in Denver -- an early 20th century building and music club similar to the National –- albeit with lots more marijuana being smoked openly.
“We want to assuage everybody’s fear,” Reid adds. “This is the best live entertainment company in the world -- hands down. It couldn’t be better. This wasn’t about money per se. This was about creating ongoing opportunity and maintaining continuity. It wasn’t a take the money and run deal. We just want to make that clear.”
See AEG Live’s Press Release below:
AEG LIVE ACQUIRES THE NATIONAL THEATRE & THE NORVA
Los Angeles, Calif. & Norfolk, VA (October 8, 2014) AEG Live, one of the world’s leading producers and promoters of live entertainment and operators of live music venues, has acquired two historic and prestigious theatres in Virginia, The National Theatre in Richmond and The NorVa Theatre in Norfolk, it was announced today by Jay Marciano, Chairman of AEG Live. Acquiring the two venues in Virginia further solidifies AEG Live’s business operations in the Mid-Atlantic region, aligning programing and routing with other AEG Live properties on the East Coast.
Located in downtown Richmond, The National is an Italian Renaissance-style theatre built in 1923 and was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 2003. The 1,500-capacity venue underwent a full restoration in 2008 at the cost of $15.6 million. Hosting 150 events annually, The National sits blocks away from the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Newly established offices at The NorVa will provide AEG Live a strategically located regional office under the leadership of the prior owners and management with industry veterans, Bill Reid and Rick Mersel. AEG Live’s Mid-Atlantic regional office will serve as a critical component and base of operations for touring and additional venue opportunities.
“We are fortunate to have acquired these two incredible historic and important theatres that will join AEG Live’s portfolio of elite venues,” said Jay Marciano, CEO, AEG Live. “We are also privileged to now have the opportunity to work with Bill Reid and Rick Mersel as part of our AEG Live team. Their experience in the industry and this marketplace in particular will benefit both our organization and the guests who attend events in the theatres.”
“While both Norfolk and Richmond have proven to be active live entertainment markets, our new association with AEG Live will further establish these special theatres as ‘must play’ venues in the region,” said Bill Reid, Vice President, AEG Live. “Having the ability to book these venues alongside of AEG Live’s other well regarded properties in addition to taking advantage of AEG Live’s well-established and deep artist relationships will truly benefit all of our guests.”
Originally opening in 1917 as a vaudeville theatre and later thriving as a movie theatre, The NorVa was fully renovated and restored in 2000. The 1,500-capacity venue is located in downtown Norfolk, the second most populated city in Virginia. Added to the National Register of Historical Places in 2000, the music venue hosts 150 events annually and is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top concert nightclubs by Pollstar, the leading concert industry magazine and was recently voted #1 “Best Club” in the 2013 Rolling Stone readers’ poll.
About AEG Live
AEG Live, the live-entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, is dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance. AEG Live is comprised of touring, festival, broadcast and special event divisions, sixteen regional offices and owns, operates or exclusively books thirty-five state-of-the-art venues. The current and recent concert tour roster includes artists such as Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, Bon Jovi, Carrie Underwood, Cher, Daughtry, Enrique Iglesias, J Cole, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Kenny Chesney, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, The WHO, Trey Songz and Juanes. The company is also currently producing residency shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas including Celine Dion, Elton John and Shania Twain and is the exclusive promoter at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. AEG Live is also the largest producer of music festivals in North America from the critically acclaimed Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival to Stagecoach Country Music Festival and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.