Saudia Arabia Acquires $500 Million Stake in Live Nation

In late April, the Saudi Public Investment Fund announced its stake of 12,337,569 shares in the entertainment company Live Nation in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This deal comes in around $500 million along with another purchase of a 8.2% stake in Carnival Cruises. 

Saudi Arabia has taken this time of economic downturn to invest in several entertainment avenues. With no official statement, one can assume that the recent addition of shares of these companies is part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to increase tourism. However, as the Corona Virus crisis continues we are seeing a significant shift in the normal operations of the music industry. That shift includes online/virtual concerts and events. This may affect the potential financial gain that Saudi Arabia hopes to see from a purchase such as this. 

With Saudi Arabia being a historically anti-western culture oriented society, it begs the question how successfully will this tourism plan be with an American audience. While the country has had artists such as BTS and Rihanna perform there, other artists such as Nicki Minaj have cancelled shows for human rights related conflicts such as the death of Jamal Khashoggi. Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist who was assassinated by the Crown Prince for writing articles critical of the Saudi government. Head of the Middle Eastern division of Live Nation, James Craven, has spoken about the tourism potential of Saudi Arabia. He spoke with Arab News stating that “It’s a new story, and we are spending a lot of time explaining what is happening (in Saudi Arabia) and talking about Saudi,” and “I want the people in the industry to come and see the changes, come and see what’s happening and meet the people.” Some have even criticized the push towards tourism as a distraction from the reality of the country’s citizens. 

Many companies were hesitant to accept deals with the country for these human rights related issues. Endeavor reportedly returned a $400 million investment in light of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. With the virus taking its toll on the music industry, deals with Saudi Arabia may become the new normal as companies take strategies to stay afloat.