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Osborne Clarke advises on sale of Birmingham's NEC exhibition centre to Blackstone


Written on 15 October 2018

Deal is one of the largest British company buyouts this year

International legal practice Osborne Clarke has advised the senior management team of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) Group, the UK’s leading live events venue operator, on its acquisition by private equity fund Blackstone. The NEC was previously majority-owned by LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.

Founded in 1976, the NEC has grown into the UK’s live events business of choice for organisers, exhibitors and visitors, playing host to over seven million guests and 750 events every year. The NEC boasts Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre, the Genting Arena and Arena Birmingham among its assets as well as caterer Amadeus and national ticketing agency The Ticket Factory.

The National Exhibition Centre hosts many of the largest exhibitions in the UK, including Crufts, the internationally acclaimed dog show, Spring Fair, the UK’s largest exhibition, and Grand Designs Live. Many other renowned events take place within the NEC venues and NEC has partnered with Merlin Entertainments to open their first Bear Grylls Adventure visitor attraction and a LEGOLAND Discovery Centre on the company’s sites. The NEC is also due to host nine sports as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

LDC originally backed a management buyout of the Group in January 2015. Since then, it has supported a four-year transformation programme to enhance sites, facilities and customer experience and broaden the range of events across the Group’s portfolio, supported by significant capital investment.

This is the latest of a series of management advisory mandates handled by Osborne Clarke’s lead Partner Mark Spinner who also advised the senior management team at Linneaus Group, one of the leading providers of veterinary services in the UK, on another significant private equity exit for Sovereign Capital Partners earlier this Summer.

Paul Thandi, Chief Executive of the NEC Group, said “It’s been a pleasure working with Osborne Clarke throughout this transaction. Mark has worked hand in hand with us every step of the way providing practical and insightful advice.  His knowledge and experience of these types of deals was invaluable and added real value.”

Osborne Clarke’s Corporate team is considered a go-to practice for many companies, working with global businesses to fast-growth start-ups and market challengers. The team advises at every stage of company development across all corporate issues, from equity and debt fundraisings to M&A, IPOs and JVs.