MONTREAL — Seagram Co. agreed to sell its Universal Concerts unit to House of Blues Entertainment Inc., operator of the namesake theme restaurants, for $190 million in cash and assumed debt.
Universal Concerts produces and promotes concerts and owns and runs 20 live-music venues in the U.S. and Canada. Not included in the deal is the flagship Universal Amphitheatre, at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, which Seagram plans to lease to House of Blues under a long-term contract.
House of Blues will combine its seven U.S. theme restaurants, which feature live music, with Universal Concerts' halls and amphitheaters. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of September.
House of Blues competes with SFX Entertainment Inc., which has 82 venues and was a leading contender in the bidding for Universal Concerts.
Under the deal, Montreal-based Seagram has the right to buy warrants for as much as 1% of Los Angeles-based House of Blues. In addition, Universal's Internet music site, http://www.getmusic.com, will be the exclusive online retailer for House of Blues, which operates its own Internet site for airing concerts.
Seagram said the concert unit is not critical to its main entertainment and beverage businesses. The company makes alcoholic beverages and owns Universal Studios.
The sale is part of Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s effort to sell about $1 billion of assets to retire the debt it assumed in its $10.4-billion purchase of PolyGram late last year.
Universal Concerts President Jay Marciano and his management team will join House of Blues.
Universal Concert's other venues include the Gorge and Chateau St. Michelle Winery near Seattle and Fiddler's Green Amphitheater in Denver.
Universal either runs or is the exclusive booking agent for its 20 venues.
Last month, Seagram sold its G.H. Mumm and Perrier-Jouet sparkling wine brands to buyout firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc. for $310 million. Seagram had 1998 sales of $9.71 billion.