Australia's Arena Management in receivership

Venues group runs Sydney Entertainment Center

BRISBANE, Australia -- Australian venues group Arena Management, operator of the troubled Sydney Entertainment Center, has been placed into receivership.

The news comes just weeks after AEG Ogden, managers of the largest network of venues in the Asia Pacific region, said that it had pulled out of talks to take on the SEC's lease after discovering "significant problems" with the operation of the venue.

A secured creditor has appointed Andrew Wily and David Hurst of Sydney-based Armstrong Wily Chartered Accountants as receivers and managers of Arena Management. The creditor holds a fixed and floating charge over the assets of Arena Management as security against a AUS$1.7 million ($1.4 million) loan made to the company.

When asked precisely what assets Arena Management held, Hurst said: "It's still very early days for us. It's what we're in the process of establishing and finding out."

Hurst added, "Principally our appointment is at the result of the dispute in relation to the lease of the SEC. Our primary focus at the moment is in relation to the SEC." Further updates will be issued to creditors next week.

In the meantime, it's business as usual for the venue, which has concerts from Keith Urban, Alice Cooper, Liza Minnelli, and Cliff Richard & the Shadows booked over the months ahead.

According to a statement issued Friday, Arena Management chairman Kevin Jacobsen blamed the "sharp and unexpected market downturn" in the market for the company's situation.

"Ultimately this is a loss for the Sydney public," Jacobsen said in a statement. "The SEC is the beating heart of live entertainment and culture in Sydney, presenting a greater variety of large-scale concerts and events than any other venue."

Arena Management had tried unsuccessfully over the past two years to sell or assign the SEC lease to third parties, including AEG Ogden. The 12,500-seat venue is leased by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. AEG Ogden, which manages 15 venues, had entered into a binding Heads of Terms agreement with SEC but said it pulled out after the due diligence process "identified a range of issues which caused concern." Brisbane-based AEG Ogden's CEO Harvey Lister subsequently told his company still harbored hopes of adding the SEC to its portfolio of assets, which include Sydney's Acer Arena.

In recent months, the Jacobsen family announced it would sell some its key entertainment assets. Arena Management recently sold the 2,000-seat Capital Theatre in Sydney to Stephen Found, one of the principals of Bytecraft Entertainment.