Birmingham's NEC Group Sold Off

The ICC and NEC Arena are to be sold to a private firm in a deal worth £307 million.

Birmingham City Council first announced it was looking for a buyer last March and the sale will help settle the council's £1 billion bill for equal pay claims.  

The purchaser LDC will take over the NEC Group in April. It includes some of the best-known conference and live music venues in the UK.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore called it a "landmark'' deal, that would allow the business to go "from strength to strength.''

Paul Thandi, the NEC Group's chief executive - who keeps his role as part of the deal - told Capital they'll now be able to attract further investment, meaning more events, shows and gigs coming to Birmingham.

As well as the NEC, which hosts Crufts, the group also runs the Barclaycard Arena (formerly the National Indoor Arena), the Genting Arena - once the LG Arena - and the International Convention Centre.

In October 2012 at the Supreme Court, Birmingham City Council lost a case brought by thousands of female former workers including dinner ladies and cleaners, who had been paid less than men for work of equal value.

The decision landed the authority with a massive financial liability, which it is still paying off amid a background of Government-imposed cuts on councils nationally.

LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, is buying the group's businesses in a deal involving the long-term 125-year lease of the NEC site, and 25-year leases on the ICC and Barclaycard Arena.

The city council will keep the freehold on all the NEC sites, while the agreement does not include any land on the site which may be needed for future development.

Under the deal existing use of all the venues and the Symphony Hall is protected, council bosses said.

Martin Draper, LDC's chief executive officer, said the company was ``delighted'' with the deal.

He added the firm would work with the city council ``to support their plans at both the NEC and city centre sites which include the airport expansion, redevelopment of the Paradise Circus area, and in connection with the HS2 Project''.

Mr Thandi said the NEC Group would now look at building on its existing businesses, and acquiring new companies although he was unable to put a figure on LDC's investment.

``There's a capital expenditure plan we have talked through and agreed with them (LDC), but in terms of numbers about what that investment would be hasn't been planned out yet - so it's a difficult question to answer,'' he said.

The council, announcing the decision to sell the NEC Group early in 2014, said at the time the sell-off would allow the business to grow, and denied it had been solely motivated by its huge equal pay bill.