Six years after the Millennium Dome closed at the end of 2000, it felt as though the vacant venue, which was costing the taxpayer £1.8m a month, was simply an economic black hole.
Fortunately for the British taxpayer and the Government, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) acquired the rights to redevelop the site into what is now The O2 – a state-of-the-art entertainment district.
Since then, European tour and events organiser AEG Live has been working to make The O2 the brand associated with music and sports. Luke Flynn has been at the legal helm to make this happen.
Flynn, a self-confessed obsessive Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave fan, was recently promoted to general counsel, whereupon he brought on board Chris Kangis as legal counsel (The Lawyer, 28 April) from music industry trade association the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
According to Flynn, AEG Live is growing at an exponential rate across Europe, having promoted world-class acts such as Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Bon Jovi and Mary J Blige.
“Europe has been taking up a lot of my time and is one of the reasons why we needed to expand the in-house legal team,” says Flynn.
AEG Live’s drive into Europe saw the events group last year set up a Sweden office to service Scandinavia, with former EMA Telstar and Live Nation executive David Maloney at the helm.
Meanwhile, in January it signed up to a 50-50 joint venture with ex-Live Nation managing director Stuart Galbraith to create boutique promoter Kilimanjaro, which focuses on festivals, tours and breaking new artists.
Through this joint venture, AEG Live managed to secure the European leg of the Eagles’ Long Road Out Of Eden tour last March and took a 51 per cent stake in Wakestock, the wakeboard music festival held simultaneously at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and Abersoch in North Wales.
Flynn says that when he brokers these types of deals he will turn to his preferred firms, such as Bryan Cave, with partner Marty Rolle as lead partner, or to Olswang, which recently advised Flynn on the acquisition of a 51 per cent stake in Rock Ness, the Loch Ness music festival featuring Fatboy Slim and Razorlight.
“With our rapid expansion at the moment, acquisitions are one of my main focus areas, while Chris looks after many of the artists, including the likes of Alicia Keyes,” explains Flynn. “Also, when a project perhaps gets too big for the two of us and our paralegal Jennifer Antoine, we will turn to the law firms for secondments onto the team – although this is very rare.”
The other firms Flynn turns to are Herbert Smith for commercial and property issues, with music specialists Russells Solicitors his first port of call for any artist disputes.
The past two years, Flynn says, has been the icing on the cake in terms of his career. “When I got my job at music label Mushroom Records in Australia, I thought I’d landed my dream job, as my heart wasn’t in private practice. When I moved to Sony I thought ‘could this get any better?’. It did, and I’m sure it will continue.”
Flynn adds that he was never really passionate about law while studying, but this changed when the keen guitar enthusiast was able to combine it with his love for music.
“When Oasis played Earl’s Court, I was involved in making that joint venture happen,” he recalls. “When it came off, I was having a drink at the concert and I felt like the king of the world knowing I had my part to play. At times like that you feel connected with what you do.”
But it is not all about attending concerts. “The minute I tell someone I’m a lawyer in the music industry, they often think I spend my time schmoozing with celebrities. That’s not the reality,” says Flynn. “I mainly deal with the artists’ lawyers, agents and marketing managers, which isn’t so sexy.”
Flynn, however, concedes: “Of course, there’s no denying there are occasions when I do get to meet the stars, like Kylie, and they’re great, but it’s more about being part of it at the cutting edge.”
Name: Luke Flynn
Company: AEG Live
Reporting to: Managing director Jessica Koravos
Turnover: £85mEmployees: 60
Legal capability: Two
Legal spend: £200,000-£250,000
Main law firms: Bryan Cave, Herbert Smith, Olswang, Russells Solicitors
Luke Flynn’s CV
Education: 1983-89: Commerce with marketing, University of New South Wales
1989-90: Law/LLB, College of Law, New South Wales and admitted to practice
Employment: 1991-93: Solicitor, Mallesons Stephen Jaques (Australia)
1993-95: Legal officer, Mushroom Records (Australia)
1995-97: Head of business affairs, Mushroom Records
1997-2001: Manager, business affairs, Sony Music Entertainment
2002-05: Director of business affairs, Sony Music
2006-08: Legal counsel, AEG Live
2008-present: General counsel, AEG Live