How Live Nation almost took over San Jose venue
The San Jose Civic Center is run by Team San Jose, a nonprofit that manages the city’s arts and cultural centers and tourism. Photo by Julia Forrest.

    Newly obtained information reveals how Live Nation, a large live entertainment company, attempted to take over a key entertainment venue in San Jose in 2021.

    Emails withheld by the city and released to San José Spotlight after a judge’s ruling show Live Nation approached Team San Jose, a nonprofit that manages the city’s arts and cultural centers and tourism, about trying to be the sole promotor at the San Jose Civic in 2021. This came as Team San Jose struggled to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Frances Wong, spokesperson for Team San Jose, said after the organization concluded that Live Nation’s offer did not align with the city’s vision, Live Nation pulled its interest.

    “Under Team San Jose, the San Jose Civic is an open house, meaning the space is open to all partners, providing access to community arts organizations as well as big promoters like Live Nation and Nederlander,” Wong told San José Spotlight. “We continue to work with Live Nation in our venues, and last year they did over 20 shows.”

    Live Nation has more than 150 venues across the nation, with more than 20 across California. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

    Founded in 2003, Team San Jose runs the city’s McEnery Convention Center, Visitors Bureau and its seven arts and entertainment venues including the California Theatre, Center for the Performing Arts, Montgomery Theater and South Hall. The nonprofit promotes the city through its tourism, arts, business and hospitality industries.

    Gary Dillabough, a developer and cofounder of Urban Community, a group looking to reimagine San Jose’s downtown, said Live Nation and Team San Jose have complementary assets. But the deal would have had to make economic sense for it to work for both organizations.

    Nanci Klein, city economic development director, told San José Spotlight that while there was some communication in 2021 about how to expand Live Nation’s role in San Jose, the exploration was not significant.

    Team San Jose brought an estimated $34 million in revenue for fiscal year 2021-22 through conventions, meetings, sporting events and performances. This was a complete turnaround from the 2020-21 fiscal year, when the nonprofit reported zero revenue due to the pandemic and safety mandates that shut down events citywide.

    The nonprofit had brought in millions of dollars to San Jose each year prior to the pandemic. In 2018-19, the last full year pre-pandemic, Team San Jose generated $138.8 million for the city. That number dwindled to $62.7 million in 2019-20—and to zero in 2020-21, a city audit revealed.

    When the pandemic hit the South Bay in March 2020, all activities came to a halt for Team San Jose. The nonprofit laid off roughly 1,400 employees—the largest layoffs in the area.

    Team San Jose wasn’t the only sector of hospitality to feel the pandemic pain. The 805-room Fairmont abruptly closed in March 2021 after owner Sam Hirbod, a San Ramon-based business and real estate executive, declared bankruptcy. Located in downtown San Jose, the hotel’s demise pushed about 400 hospitality workers out of a job. The Fairmount had a long-standing relationship with Team San Jose as a key provider of hotel rooms to out-of-state business travelers. The bankrupt hotel was purchased by Hilton Worldwide Holdings, which rebranded it a Signia by Hilton San Jose.

    Dillabough said as Team San Jose and entertainment venues across the city continue to grow out of the pandemic, San Jose leaders and private organizations should work together to form an entertainment district downtown that helps everyone.

    ‘My belief is that if you spend more time looking into this I think we can create one of the most interesting entertainment districts, certainly in the West Coast,” Dillabough told San José Spotlight.

    Contact Julia Forrest at [email protected] or follow @juliaforrest35 on Twitter.

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