Live Nation, Legends Hospitality Q&A with Shervin Mirhashemi

Legends Hospitality has just signed one of the largest venue F&B contracts in history. In December, the company was awarded 34 amphitheaters under Live Nation management in a multiyear deal. Amplify caught up with Shervin Mirhashemi, president & COO of Legends, on Friday to discuss the deal.

How did this deal come about?

Mark Campana (co-president of Live Nation’s North America Concerts) is the one who got this started. They opened up F&B to an RFP process to find the best solution. He and I had an initial conversation in early 2014 — he told me about the RFP and asked if I was interested. I told him we absolutely were interested. Looking back at that conversation, it really resonated with both of us. The RFP process began in June 2014, and they made their decision in early December.

Is Legends creating a separate division to administer this contract?

Yes, we felt the amount of revenues involved here for Live Nation deserved having a dedicated structure focused on the Live Nation account. We created a dedicated team that is solely focused on Live Nation’s 34 amphitheaters across North America.

Where is the company going to be based?

It’s under the hospitality division of Legends Hospitality, which Dan Smith oversees as its president. They’ll be headquartered at our offices here in LA. Because this agreement covers all of North America, we’ll have regional teams in various locations.

Let’s talk about Legend’s vision. Amphitheater food has certainly not been great. What are some of your early plans for the sheds?

These facilities aren’t open year-round, and some of them don’t have the infrastructure for large-scale food delivery. We’re going to be really focused on developing innovative food and beverage programs, including premium services. We’re also going to look at POS systems and concepts that are a little more digital and seamless. Not only do we want to expedite service, but we also want to reach more customers over a long span of time. And the last piece is innovative technology — how do we engage with the customer and the fan earlier in the process? We want them to look at the venue as a place to hear music and to really experience something that includes a high-end, value-oriented food and beverage component. We are currently developing the programs and putting the pieces together, and we’ll roll them out over the next few months.

So this contract begins this summer concert season?

Yes, and you’ll see constant innovation as we develop this relationship from year to year. It is absolutely our intention to have many of these concepts kick off immediately. We’ll have more details as we go through this process — we’re going to look for things, like a picnic basket program, that resonate with customers around certain shows and within certain markets. We’re also going to look at grab and go, so fans can get tremendous quality and value in an expedited fashion. We’re going to look at increasing vending services, potentially in the lawn areas. There’s also a technology component — we’re looking at reaching customers in a much different way, not only from a time standpoint but also from an access standpoint. And it’s important to point out that we are creating custom experiences for the venues. We don’t want to take a concept that works in Los Angeles and roll it out across all venues. We’re going to give some flexibility to our general managers to create their own programs that work in their regions and venues.

Is this deal a contract or more of a 50-50 partnership?

This is absolutely a contract with Live Nation as the client and Legends as the concessionaire. But we have also agreed that our businesses are very complementary, and we’re going to be very strategic in how we approach the market. We’re going to look at delivering solutions together to third-party clients, and we think that this strategic relationship is going to be a real game-changer.

Legends Selling New Premium Seats in Oklahoma Renovation

The University of Oklahoma has hired Legends Global Sales to sell new premium seats tied to the $370 million renovation of Gaylord Family-OklahomaMemorial Stadium.

The project covers a mix of suites, loge boxes and club seats to be built in the south end zone and along the west sideline. The revenue generated from selling the new seats will help pay for construction costs, said Larry Naifeh, OU’s executive associate director of athletics.

Legends comes on board after its sister company CSL International consulted with the Big 12 school to help determine the appropriate number of new premium seats and their market value.

School officials spoke with other sports marketers but felt comfortable with Legends based on its relationship with CSL, Naifeh said.

Legends is responsible for selling about 14 Founders Suites; 24 smaller, traditional suites; more than 50 loge boxes; and an undetermined number of club seats. In addition, Legends will take over all season-ticket sales as part of the project.
School officials won’t release pricing on the new inventory until Populous’ drawings are complete and the university’s board of regents approves the final design in the coming weeks, Naifeh said.

But it’s safe to say the Founders Suites, the most luxurious spaces, will cost seven figures over a long-term commitment, he said. Those 18-seat units, targeted for the west sideline, are modeled after similar high-end suites at fellow Big 12 schools Baylor and TCU.

In Fort Worth, the six Founders Suites, part of a major renovation of Amon G. Carter Stadiumtwo years ago, carry terms of $15 million to be paid over five years. In Waco, new McLane Stadium’s half-dozen Founders Suites all sold for at least $10 million over 20 years.

The difference is at TCU those patrons share a 6,400-square-foot lounge outside of their private boxes. At Oklahoma, there will be ample hospitality space in a common area for 250 to 300 Founders Suite ticket holders, Naifeh said.

To give all Sooners season-ticket holders a better idea of what the new premium seats will look like, including 11,800 donors at the top of the list, Oklahoma has opened a preview center at a building across the street from campus.

OU signed a five-year lease with the owner of the building, situated on “Campus Corner,” a busy intersection in town. Inside are a mock suite and models of loge boxes and the new club seats.

Upon entering the center, season-ticket holders walk down hallways containing a historical timeline of Sooners football before encountering an image of the renovated stadium and rooms showcasing the seat models. Touch-screen technology lends to the visual effects.

OU spent about $550,000 to lease the 7,700-square-foot space and build the preview center.

Legends ultimately will have nine employees working in the preview center alongside Oklahoma’s development staffers, said Mike Ondrejko, Legends Global Sales’ chief operating officer. Tim Statezni, the agency’s on-site general manager, previously sold premium seats at Rose Bowl Stadium.

OU’s premium-seat additions are expected to open during the next two seasons.

Sporting KC Adds Legends for Food and Beverage

Sporting Kansas City has signed a five-year deal with Legends Hospitality to take over all aspects of food service at Sporting Park.

The concessionaire, co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees, replaces Delaware North Sportservice after the MLS team mutually agreed to part ways with the food provider and American Vending, its local partner at the facility.

The decision to switch vendors four seasons after the stadium opened in 2011 was less about the American Sportservice joint venture and more about Legends’ “best-in-class” philosophy to upgrade the food operation, said Jake Reid, Sporting KC’s chief revenue officer. 
“We thought they were a good aesthetic fit in general,” Reid said. “We have five clubs in addition to concourse concessions, and they should all have a different look and feel.”

The team issued an RFP and did extensive research on food service. Sporting KC officials thought seriously about going in-house to run general concessions and premium dining, and talked to teams that run food internally, before deciding that subcontracting remained the best option.

Legends, born out of serving AT&T Stadium and Yankee Stadium, came closest to the self-operation model, Reid said.

“Ultimately, going in-house is a two- to three-year learning curve, and as a young brand and stadium, we weren’t ready to take on that responsibility,” he said.

It didn’t hurt that Reid and Mike Tomon, Legends’ president of North American sports and events, have a business relationship dating to eight years ago, when they both worked for the old Charlotte Bobcats. Tomon later went to AEG, owner of MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy and co-owner of the Houston Dynamo, and kept in touch with Reid over the years before landing with Legends. Tomon’s ties with Reid helped open the door for Legends to begin conversations about potentially taking over the Kansas City stadium.

“We had some conversations and it became apparent they were making a switch early from Delaware North,” Tomon said. “It’s a key account for us. The value they put on the customer experience is almost obsessive.”

Legends’ on-site general manager, Harry Smith, is a holdover from Sportservice. The new food provider is in search of an executive chef and sous chefs.

Sporting KC is Legends’ second MLS account, in addition to FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Legends Making Food Part of the Show

By Linda Deckard/Venues Today

New concessions deal with Live Nation amphitheaters is about the fan experience

Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas is one of 34 Live Nation-owned and -operated amphitheaters Legends Hospitality will serve under its new concessions contract.

While the long-term plan is to shop Live Nation and Legends Hospitality services to third-party clients as a turnkey option, the immediate task is to launch new food and drink services by Legends Hospitality at 34 Live Nation amphitheaters as the season opens over the next 30-60 days.

Legends Hospitality and Live Nation struck a deal for food and drink services at those North American sheds in mid-December, finalizing the agreement just Jan. 1, said Shervin Mirhashemi, president and COO of Legends. His counterpart at Live Nation in negotiation and implementation is Mark Campana, Live Nation co-president for North America.

“He and his team were looking at a bid for their amphitheaters. He and I had a conversation. I knew him from my days at AEG,” Mirhashemi said. “Coming out of that call it seemed what they were looking for as far as concessionaire operations going forward matched with the mindset and innovation we have as a company, certainly on the hospitality side of the business.”

The process took over a year as the contract for those sheds went out to bid, said Mirhashemi, who moved over to Legends a year and a half ago from AEG. But the turnaround is just three months. He didn’t anticipate everything will be done the first season.

Legends Hospitality had an edge over the competition because it is focused on the fan experience, adding value and innovation to the operation, he added..

“We have many different facets to our company — a robust sales arm, a global planning group. On all fronts of our business we’re in the customer experience business and enhancing that customer experience,” Mirhashemi said of the deal. “Live Nation is at a point where they were looking at these venues and ways to enhance the experience, and certainly food and beverage is one of those. As we got into more details and into the weeds as to what all that meant, it came to life for all of us that what they wanted to accomplish and what our desires were a perfect complement.”


At this point, over 75 full-time people have been hired with year-round responsibility for Live Nation business. Mirhashemi said they began recruiting in mid-December and the result is a mix of Legends personnel, existing amphitheater employees and industry veterans.

Bill Wilson came on board as vice president, Live Nation Hospitality, responsible exclusively for Live Nation Business. He answers to Michael Bekolay, newly named Legends Hospitality Group COO and, ultimately, to Dan Smith, President of Legends Hospitality.

“We had a unique approach to this business. We suggested to Live Nation that these venues deserve and need year-round dedicated attention and staff,” Mirhashemi said. Legends created a dedicated structure just focused on the Live Nation Business, under the Hospitality umbrella, but 100 percent focused on Live Nation. Then four more dedicated folks responsible for clusters of amphitheaters in their region joined Wilson.

Those four regional VPs include:

·    Kevin Austin, South Eastern Regional Manager

·    Don Griffin, North Eastern Regional Manager

·    Brent Sloan, Western Regional Manager

·    Geno Svec, Central Regional Manager

Legends regional infrastructure already in place will be involved as well, but the key is the dedicated staff concentrating only on Live Nation Business, which also includes general managers and dedicated staff below them, such as finance and human resources. “Then layer in the not-for-profit groups involved with all these venues and we’re talking thousands of people,” Mirhashemi said.

“That dedicated infrastructure was hired within two weeks of Jan. 1, when we got the keys to this new car,” he added. “We put together an all-star team. All the GMs are now on board and going through the process of the transition.”

Live Nation Business will be overseen from Legends new Culver City, Calif., offices, relocated just this week from Century City. “With Live Nation assets out here, plus we have the L.A. Coliseum, Rose Bowl (Pasadena), US Bank Tower (L.A.) and Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Los Angeles and this region are very important for us,” he said.


The winning bidder promised to make food part of the show, helping create an environment where fans would come earlier and stay longer and spend more.

To “elevate the food and beverage program” Legends Hospitality Group will create diverse food offerings, like a picnic basket program and an enhanced grab-and-go market concept, Mirhashemi said. “Some concepts only fit in certain markets.”

They are also looking at increased vending services, “making sure we go out to the customers and fans so they don’t have to miss the action by coming out to the concessions area,” he continued.

They will also institute a regional chefs program where appropriate, customized to each market. There may also be a national chef program.

Enhanced POS (point of sale) offerings so fans spend less time in line so Legends has the flexibility to go out to the customer is in the works, as are VIP premium services at various levels and price points.

Innovative technology is a hallmark for Legends and “we are developing an app that can enhance the experience for the customer. We’re currently in the process of identifying what, which one, how quickly and what level,” Mirhashemi said, promising an announcement in the next few weeks.

The plan, or course, is to drive revenue. Per caps on food and drink are normally in the midteens at amphitheaters. “We can certainly increase those numbers,” he said, saying they will be setting internal goals soon. “We think you get what you pay for. The deal structure was the right deal structure on these venues. We will provide them with the opportunity to grow the pie.”


“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without this partnership approach,” Mirhashemi said. “They’ve been amazing as partners.”

Both parties have committed significant capital which will be deployed over the next several years, he said, declining to say how long or how much.

“We need enough buying power to do what these venues deserve,” he added, confirming Legends has been on a major buying spree.

The deal does not include equity in Legends for Live Nation and does not include sponsorships. Both companies have robust sponsorship sales divisions. “We don’t take our own sponsorship revenue when it comes to our venues,” Mirhashemi said. “We will identify opportunities and inventory for Live Nation and their team that can be monetized through sponsorships. We’ll bring that to the table.”

The differentiator for Legends is that “we are not just a food and beverage company. We have this robust global sales and global planning group that allows us to be involved with the life cycle of a venue from inception to opening and operating a venue,” he said. That diversity may lead to yet more Live Nation business.

It’s a game changer for Legends in that this is the firm’s first significant foray into the music side of the business. It was founded on sports, owned by the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys organizations. They dipped their toes into music festivals last year and have spent the last year and a half developing the attractions side of the business, namely One World Observatory atop the World Trade Center which opens in June in New York City and has a robust food and beverage business.

While this deal with Live Nation is transformative as a different vertical of business, it also opens new doors to other strategic ways Live Nation and Legends can work together going forward, Mirhashemi said. “The core businesses Live Nation is in, we’re not in. Strategically, we are going out to third-party opportunities in the marketplace, where we could deliver our best-in-class operations in our verticals of business – global planning, global sales and hospitality, in addition to Live Nation’s content. We could provide a real turnkey solution to third-party assets out there. We will be strategically aligned and looking at going out there and presenting together an opportunity for other third-party assets.”

It is comparable to what is happening in the venue construction business, where architects and construction companies are aligning for an initial design/build, versus the traditional design/bid/build where each entity is contracted separately.

As to third-party deals with Live Nation, sometimes the approach will be more traditional and one or the other will secure a contract and work to bring the other on board, but where opportunity presents itself, Legends and Live Nation will bring a unique, collective solution to the table, he said.

Where and when? “Within a month, we’ve identified a couple of third-party opportunities and we’ve already started having those discussions about how do we then go to market,” Mirhashemi said.

“But make no mistake about it, our focus this year certainly and going forward, we want to do a tremendous job on these 34 amphitheaters. That’s the core of what we signed up for, that’s why they chose us.”

Interviewed for this article: Shervin Mirhashemi