Trinity in bid for O2 Arena

Andrew Georgiou - News Reporter 8 October 2009

Trinity College is reportedly involved in negotiations to buy the O2 arena, formerly the Millennium Dome, for around £20million.

The college, which is the wealthiest of all the Oxbridge colleges, has been in negotiations over the site in Greenwich, south-east London, for several weeks with the current owners Quintain Estates and Development and the Australian company Lend Lease.

Trinity would look to purchase the landlord’s interest in the form of the 999-year lease on the land. The freehold, which is owned by the government, through the Home and Communities Agency, formerly known as English Partnerships, is not for sale. The sale would also not affect the 55-year operating lease which is currently held by the American entertainment company AEG.

The Dome was originally put up for sale in February this year at a price of £35million but the asking price has since significantly dropped. Quintain Estates is looking to sell the lease that it co-owns on the land due to the fact that the company is on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the recent collapse in commercial property values. It plans to sell around £100million in assets to keep itself afloat.

A sale has been close a few times over the past few months with other bidders but has never actually gone through.

If Trinity does manage to successfully complete the deal, it will benefit from a rental income from AEG that has so far equated to £100,000 per month.

Trinity has a long tradition of investing in property and land. The college owns industrial parks around the country as well as sites like Felixstowe Port in Suffolk, the country’s largest container port.

According to its accounts for the year ending 30 June 2008, Trinity’s income from college estate amounted to £39.3million. In 2005, Trinity was worth £621million, which was as much as Manchester United Football Club. It is believed that around 70% of money raised by Cambridge colleges is raised by Trinity, with Jesus coming in a distant second.

The site that Trinity is attempting to purchase contains bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas as well as the renowned 23,000-capacity stadium, which has hosted concerts since June 2007 by stars including Madonna, Beyoncé and the Spice Girls.

Events at the O2 attracted 1.8million fans last year, making it the most popular music venue in the world, ahead of New York’s Madison Square Garden, which it outsold by more than half a million tickets. In 2012, when the Olympic Games comes to London, the stadium will host the gymnastics and basketball finals.

It has been suggested that Trinity may be looking to purchase the land as a response to the downturn in the property market in order to try and keep yields up.

Trinity would not comment on the deal.

Andrew Georgiou – News Reporter