Ahead of Final Approval for Pier Six Operating Deal, AEG Live Files Protest

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Boston plays at Pier Six Pavilion this past May. Courtesy Pier Six/Facebook.
Boston plays at Pier Six Pavilion this past May. Courtesy Pier Six/Facebook.

AEG Live may have lost out during the bidding process for the contract to operate Pier Six Pavilion, but the media conglomerate isn’t going down without a fight.

The Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), the public nonprofit that promotes economic growth for the City of Baltimore, announced more than two months ago that it had chosen Live Nation and SMG over AEG Live Mid-Atlantic and Rams Head Group to run Pier Six Pavilion starting in 2017. Rams Head Group currently operates Pier Six, but its 10-year contract with the city is about to run out on Dec. 31.

The City Board of Estimates is scheduled to sign off on the deal tomorrow. However, yesterday, AEG Live announced it had filed a formal protest with the Board of Estimates over the BDC’s handling of bids.

According to WBAL Radio, the media company has accused the BDC of changing its bidding process, which began this past January and concluded with the September announcement, by asking for better bids from the three companies in May and July. Attorney Billy Murphy, who represents AEG Live, wrote in a letter obtained by the radio station that “at best, the RFP process for Pier 6 has not followed the BDC’s own guidelines. At worst, the process may have been compromised and thereby violated city laws.”

At stake here is a lot of money for the firm that gets to run the Inner Harbor concert venue. On the other end of that deal, the city wants the recipient of the contract to invest in the venue and make more money for Baltimore. The BDC’s goals laid out in its request for proposals last January included boosting the number of events and the length of the concert season, increasing financial returns, creating more jobs for Baltimore residents and developing a capital campaign to fund future upgrades for the venue.

The chosen companies, Live Nation and SMG, have worked together since 2008. Live Nation operates more than 175 venues and festivals in 37 countries, according to its website, including the nearby Warner Theater in D.C., The Fillmore in Silver Spring and Jiffy Lube Live in Virginia. Under the the terms of the deal, Live Nation and SMG would invest at least $3.4 million into Pier Six over the length of contract — seven years, with an option to extend for another three — and would host at least 25 concerts a year, according to the Board of Estimates agenda for tomorrow.

The fate of that deal rests in the Board of Estimates’ hands. When its members meet on Wednesday, they will review AEG’s Live’s formal protest and could either postpone the decision or approve the contract.

AEG Live, which runs the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, among other venues, already has a stake in live entertainment here in Baltimore. The company acquired Rams Head Live in August 2015, according to City Paper.

Ethan McLeod
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