Financial harmony

Owner of ACL Music Fest drums up $500 million investment from surprising source

Owner of ACL Fest drums up $500M investment from surprising source

Austin City Limits ACL Music Festival sign 2015
The owner of ACL Music Fest has a new major stakeholder.  Photo by Nicole Raney

The Saudi Arabian government now effectively owns a piece of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

An April 27 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that the government-run Saudi Public Investment Fund purchased a 5.7 percent stake in Beverly Hills, California-based concert giant Live Nation Entertainment Inc. Live Nation owns a majority stake in Austin-based concert promoter C3 Presents LLC, which runs ACL.

Media reports peg the value of the Saudi deal at $500 million. In picking up nearly 12.4 million shares of stock in publicly traded Live Nation, the Saudi fund now ranks as the company’s third largest stockholder.

In 2014, Live Nation bought a 51 percent stake in C3. With that purchase, reportedly valued at $250 million, Live Nation added ACL, Lollapalooza, and other music festivals to its roster.

As it stands now, ACL still is scheduled for October 2-4 and October 9-11 at Zilker Park. The 2020 lineup hasn’t been announced yet.

The 2018 edition of ACL generated $264.6 million for the local economy, making it one of the city’s largest moneymaking events. Cancelation of this year’s ACL would aggravate pandemic-inflicted woes in Austin’s hospitality and event industries. The coronavirus pandemic prompted the cancelation of this year’s SXSW. In 2019, SXSW contributed $355.9 million to the local economy.

A media representative for ACL couldn’t be reached for comment.

Live Nation and C3 are on track to manage the 5,000-seat Moody Amphitheater planned for the Waterloo Gateway project in downtown Austin. The venue, set to open this fall, is supposed to kick off concerts in the spring of 2021.

“Waterloo Greenway’s Moody Amphitheater is the venue Austin has been missing for many years. It’s the perfect size for some of today’s hottest touring acts, and with the beautiful urban downtown setting, it will be one of the most special places to see live music in the country,” Charles Attal, one of the partners at C3, said in a February 4 release.

The investment from Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich nation in the Middle East, comes at a critical time for the majority owner of C3. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the worldwide shutdown of events staged by Live Nation in order to promote social distancing. So far, though, most of Live Nation’s shows have been postponed rather than canceled.

To shore up its finances, Live Nation has undertaken a number of cost-cutting measures, including 50 percent salary decreases for senior executives, hiring freezes, furloughs, and reduced use of contractors. Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation, has voluntary forfeited his $3 million-a-year salary for the duration of the cost-slashing program.

In an April 13 release, Rapino says the cost reduction initiative, coupled with other financial moves, has given Live Nation “the financial strength to weather this difficult time. We will be ready to ramp back up quickly and once again connect audiences to artists at the concerts they are looking forward to.”