The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made a massive $500 million stock purchase from Live Nation, making it the third largest shareholder in the company, with a 5.7 percent stake. Live Nation owns multiple venues across the country, the ticket seller Ticketmaster and the ticketreseller StubHub.
Saudi Public Investment Fund invested in 12,337,569 shares according to their recent filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. This recent purchase caused their stock to increase by 2 percent within the first few minutes of trading, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Saudi Public Investment Fund also took a $775 million stake in Carnival Cruises, which was recently hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
These recent purchases reflect Saudi Arabia’s growing interest into its tourism industry that it had been developing prior to the pandemic. Rapper Nicki Minaj received backlash last year for scheduling a concert in the country, which she ultimately decided to drop out of.
Saudi Arabia has attracted a lot of controversy due to its alleged human right abuses, including the legal status of women, the LGBTQ community and free speech. Some companies have been hesitant to accept investments from the nation due to the murder of Saudi-born journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey. One of the most prominent political figures in the country, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was alleged to have been involved in his murder.
Live Nation has also attracted controversy on a smaller scale since the pandemic hit. Its subsidiary Ticketmaster attracted controversy for its alleged change in its refund policy, which Live Nation recently addressed with its “ticket relief plan.” This new plan allows ticket holders for postponed events to request a refund for said events. The company’s other subsidiary Stubhub also attracted controversy, and was recently hit with a $5 million class action lawsuit over refunds.
The company was also under fire prior to the pandemic. At the beginning of the year Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino claimed that concert tickets were an “incredible bargain,” despite the fact that the average ticket price for the top-100 world-wide tours rose to $96.17 in the last year alone. A secretly recorded phone call also emerged in the last couple of years, which showed the company allegedly helping bands such as Metallica and others place their tickets directly on resale sites such as StubHub, for a higher retail price.