Saudi Arabia’s government-owned fund, the Public Investment Fund, has purchased a 5.7% stake in events promoter Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster. The investment is worth roughly $500 million based on Live Nation’s current stock price.
Saudi Arabia’s fund will receive 12,337,569 shares in Live Nation, according to a report filed with the SEC on Monday. The Beverly Hills-based company’s stock price had dropped more than 40% since Jan. 1, largely due to the coronavirus postponing or canceling concerts and sporting events around the world. However, Live Nation’s stock spiked about 10% on Monday after this investment.
Ticketmaster, a leading marketplace for sports tickets, was one of the targets in a lawsuit filed recently by baseball fans who claimed the company has refused to issue refunds to fans who purchased tickets to MLB games that have been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. StubHub, MLB, and its 30 clubs were also named as defendants in the suit.
Live Nation has since updated its refund policy for concerts, but it does not specify changes for refunds to sporting events. Under the new concert policy, if 60 days have passed since a show was postponed and no date to reschedule the event has been announced, users will have 30 days to opt-in for a full refund. MLB has yet to announce any updates to its refund policy, but teams are expected to begin reaching out to fans to address new ticket policies.
Saudi Arabia’s PIF is now the third-largest shareholder in Live Nation behind Liberty Media Corporation and Vanguard. The fund oversees more than $300 billion in assets and is reportedly in the final stages of acquiring an 80% stake in soccer club Newcastle United of the English Premier League.
Qatari-owned network beIN Sports has reportedly asked the Premier League to block Saudi Arabia from acquiring Newcastle, citing an ongoing investigation into BeoutQ, a piracy operation that began illegally streaming Premier League matches in 2017. Qatar accuses the Saudi government of being behind the service. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has committed numerous human rights violations, including the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Saudi Arabia is attempting to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football as a PR tool to distract from the country’s abysmal human rights record,” Felix Jakens, head of priority campaigns at Amnesty International UK, told NBC. “There’s a name for this—it’s called sportswashing.”