True AF Newsletter — January 11th, 2021 — Click to view and please subscribe to stay updated.
I’ve written so many stories about StubHub over the years. There is a common thread among them. StubHub is the OG of ticket resale. Their platform normalized buying tickets from the internet, built trust among consumers and laid the foundation for the complete upheaval of how tickets are distributed.
The founders, Jeff Fluhr and Eric Baker were right in their timing and concept, then split in how they thought the company should progress. Fluhr pushed out Baker and aligned the company with eBay which had the capital to make StubHub dominant in resale. Baker, to everyone’s surprise, replicated StubHub in London and built a global enterprise under the name Viagogo. The only hole in his empire was North America. That hole was plugged in late February 2020 when Viagogo’s parent company Pugnacious LLC paid eBay $4.06 billion cash for StubHub. Approximately 3 weeks later the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown of events worldwide blew a hole into all of live entertainment, upended Baker’s plan for world-wide domination in ticketing and put the $2 billion investment by Bessemer Venture Partners and Madrone Capital Partners into the StubHub acquisition at serious risk.
StubHub’s problems grew worse as the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority which had already tangled repeatedly with Viagogo over its marketing practices decided Viagogo combining with StubHub would be a very bad idea and blocked the merger. At the same time, consumers who had purchased approximately $5 billion annually from StubHub clamored for refunds of the tickets they had bought for shows which were postponed or cancelled as a result of the pandemic shutdown. StubHub did not have the money to repay these consumers who were forced to take credits for future purchases.
My theory has long been that the only way StubHub will be capable to deliver tickets redeemed will be to sell five new tickets for every ticket they have to provide from a voucher claim, using the profits from the new sales to pay for the ticket they will have to purchase to provide the voucher holder. This entire plan centers on ticketing returning at a scale greater than the $5 billion annual run rate for StubHub’s gross sales and StubHub’s ability to…