Birmingham City Council is putting the NEC Group up for sale, after reportedly being forced to sell off the group to pay a huge equal pay bill following years of underpaying its female workforce, with claims going back years.
The National Exhibition Centre opened in 1976, with seed-corn investment from the City Council, since then the NEC Group has broadened its business and through the subsequent openings of the NEC Arena (1980), the International Convention Centre (1991) and the National Indoor Arena (1991), the group has evolved into one of the world’s leading venue management companies.
The council has denied that the equal pay compensation claims are the reason behind the sale, but says the sale is prompted by a ‘need to invest and diversify’ the group to enable international expansion and growth.
Whatever the true reasons behind the announcement, a principal objective of the proposed sale is to maximise the proceeds for Birmingham City Council. Bringing the NEC Group under private ownership will also enable the business to take full advantage of its growth opportunities and reach the next stage of its development.
The NEC Group is a vitally important contributor to the West Midlands economy, delivering an economic impact of over £2 billion per annum and supporting some 29,000 FTE jobs in the region.
In structuring a transaction, the City Council intends to ensure that the existing uses of the exhibition centre, International Convention Centre and two arenas (LG Arena and National Indoor Arena) are preserved. This will secure the profile of Birmingham and the broader West Midlands as a world-class home of a broad array of live events.
The City Council also intends to retain rights over certain land at the main NEC site, so ensuring that it preserves potential future development value from a highly attractive site that will be adjacent to the Birmingham Interchange HS2 station.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, comments:
“The NEC Group has reached a point in its evolution where it needs to be able to adopt the financial disciplines of a private, rather than a council-owned company to enable the next stage of strategic development. In doing so, economic impact and job creation can be preserved and enhanced.”
Martin Angle, Chairman of the NEC Group, adds:
“We look forward to working with Birmingham City Council in preparing the NEC Group for this major step forward and believe that its iconic status and portfolio of venues and businesses is likely to attract strong interest from potential buyers, from both the UK and overseas.”
The City Council will invite potentially interested buyers to participate in a pre-qualification process while sale preparations are finalised.