Music

Co-op Live Launch Plunges Further Into Chaos as GM Gary Roden Resigns 3 Days Before Opening

The troubled launch of Co-op Live, the United Kingdom’s biggest entertainment arena, has hit further difficulties with GM Gary Roden resigning from his role just a few days ahead of the venue’s already delayed opening.

Roden’s exit was announced late Thursday evening (April 25) U.K. time by Jessica Koravos, president of Oak View Group (OVG) International. “Gary Roden has decided to resign,” said Koravos in a statement. She went on to thank the outgoing exec for “his help bringing the UK’s newest arena to live entertainment fans” and wished him “the best for the future.”

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Replacing Roden in the position of interim GM is Rebecca Kane Burton, who ran the U.K.’s highest-grossing venue, London’s The O2 arena, from 2012 to 2016 before serving as CEO of LW Theatres. Burton takes over at Co-op Live with immediate effect, said Koravos.

The change of leadership at Co-op Live follows a tumultuous week at the 23,500-capacity venue, which was originally due to open on Tuesday (April 23) with the first of two consecutive shows by British comedian Peter Kay.

Those plans were postponed after a heavily publicized preview show at the Manchester arena 48 hours prior, headlined by Rick Astley, which saw Co-op Live cut capacity, resulting in large numbers of fans’ tickets being canceled on short notice as the venue was not ready.

Two days later, Co-op Live announced that Kay’s opening shows were being rescheduled to Monday (April 29) and Tuesday (April 30) to give operators “the extra time we need to continue testing” the building’s infrastructure and power supply, according to a venue spokesperson.

At the time of publication, representatives of Co-op Live had not responded to inquiries from Billboard asking if the two Kay shows were still going ahead next week — or if a 10,000-capacity test concert by The Black Keys scheduled for Saturday (April 27) was still taking place.

Koravos’ statement doesn’t mention either upcoming event and simply says, “We are focused on opening Co-op Live.”

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Set to be the United Kingdom’s biggest and most sustainable arena, Co-op Live is the first major project outside the United States from Oak View Group (OVG), the Denver-headquartered global management and development giant co-founded in 2015 by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff. (Harry Styles, who grew up in the small Cheshire village of Holmes Chapel, around 30 miles outside of Manchester, is an investor in the project and advised on aspects of the venue’s design).

Prior to his sudden and unexpected exit on Thursday, Roden had sparked ire from U.K. trade body The Music Venue Trust for comments he made in an interview with the BBC in which he reportedly said that some small grassroots venues were “poorly run” and that calls for a £1 ticket levy from every arena ticket to support pubs and clubs was “too simplistic.”

Referencing those comments, Koravos said that “neither Co-op Live nor Oak View Group share the sentiment expressed by former Co-op Live General Manager Gary Roden regarding the grassroots industry.”

Koravos went on to say that the venue remains “committed to grassroots music in Manchester and beyond” and will donate over £1 million a year to good causes via the Co-op Foundation.

“Oak View Group and Co-op Live remain happy to meet with grassroots organisations once the venue is fully operational,” Koravos’ statement concludes.

Artists confirmed to perform at the venue this year include the Eagles, Take That, Liam Gallagher, Olivia Rodrigo, Nicki Minaj, Kid Cudi, Slipknot, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, Justin Timberlake, Noah Kahan and Megan Thee Stallion.

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