The founder of controversial ticket marketplace Viagogo has acquired StubHub for £3.15 billion - more than a decade after it was sold to eBay.
Eric Baker, founder and chief executive of Viagogo, also co-founded StubHub while in business school at Stanford University in the US, but left before the business was sold to eBay for $310m in 2007. Baker created Viagogo, which operates in over 70 countries, in 2006.
The firm earlier this year came under fire from MPs, who took the unusual step of urging consumers to boycott the site. Westminster’s digital, culture, media and sport select committee criticised Viagogo for “misleading” consumers, many of whom found the site through paid-for ads on Google. In September, the Competitions and Markets Authority said it would suspend court action against Viagogo after it addressed the CMA’s outstanding concerns about how it presents important information to its customers - but said it would not rule out further action in future. The results of a further independent review of Viagogo’s compliance with the court order have not yet been published.
Mr Baker, who announced the $4.05bn cash sale this afternoon, said the acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, was a long-held "wish" of his to "unite the two companies".
He said: "Buyers will have a wider choice of tickets, and sellers will have a wider network of buyers. Bringing these two companies together creates a win-win for fans - more choice and better pricing. It has long been my wish to unite the two companies. I am so proud of how StubHub has grown over the years and excited about the possibilities for our shared future.”
Last year, the site pledged to start displaying ticket prices including VAT and booking fees upfront, although consumers have still complained after tickets continued to be sold for hundreds of pounds more than original prices, claiming they are being ripped off.
Consumer groups said they planned to try to block the acquisition, which they described as a "desperate move".
Adam Webb, campaign manager, FanFair Alliance, said: This feels like a desperate move from both parties. However, news of this acquisition should be a major concern for both audiences and music businesses - especially if Viagogo, a company that recently had a court order hanging over its head and is still the subject of a CMA investigation, use this process as an attempt to detoxify its brand.
"FanFair will be writing to UK regulators and politicians today, and we reiterate our advice to music fans to avoid these sites."
Citizens Advice Scotland spokesman Dr Jamie Stewart, said: “What is important is that the consumer interest is always put first. e.g. that prices are fair, that complaints procedures are straightforward and that all terms and conditions are fair and transparent. We also urge all companies involved in ticket sales to crack down on ticket scammers.”
Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: "Viagogo has a long history of ripping off music and sports fans and had to be threatened with court action after failing to provide vital information to customers, so any move to increase its grip on the secondary ticketing sector is likely to be a worry for consumers.
"The regulator should closely examine this deal and the impact it could have on competition in the sector to ensure consumers do not lose out.”
Last year Ticketmaster closed down its resale websites Get Me In and Seatwave. Both sites were embroiled in controversy due to secondary sellers ramping up prices to make huge profits on tickets.
Campaigners have claimed that the inflated prices for which tickets are sold on sites such as Viagogo and StubHub are unacceptable. Last year, band The Proclaimers hit out at touts after tickets for their latest tour, which had a face value of £35.75, were quickly being sold on secondary ticket sites such as Stubhub and Viagogo for up to £175.
Earlier this year, Glasgow MSP Bob Doris stepped in to speak out against Viagogo after a constituent paid five times over the odds for tickets on the site - for a show which still had tickets left at the original price from the venue. Ellen McCann, 59, had planned a family trip to see show ‘Seven Drunken Nights: the Story of the Dubliners’ in Glasgow as a treat for her 60th birthday, but only found the tickets available on Viagogo when she put the name of the show into a search engine.
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, president of StubHub, said: “Bringing StubHub and Viagogo together will allow us to drive further expansion and innovation, and create a more competitive offering for live event fans globally. This provides a great opportunity to expand our business, pursue new partnerships and execute our strategy. We expect a seamless transition for all our employees, partners and customers, and we are excited for what the future holds.”
The sale is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2020, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.