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Oak View Group’s New COO Francesca Bodie On Her Plans For the Company – Billboard

Executive promotions are inevitably announced with press releases. Francesca Bodie‘s elevation to the newly created position of COO for the venue development, management and investment company Oak View Group (OVG), also comes with the announcement of two significant deals she led for the company founded by her father, OVG CEO Tim Leiweke and music’s multisector entrepreneur Irving Azoff.

Bodie, who served as OVG’s president of business development prior to her promotion, engineered the company’s strategic investment in Family Entertainment Holdings, the company behind the popular live franchises, Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live, which is tied to the classic toy brand, and Magic of Lights, an all-ages holiday light show. OVG also unveiled activations with premium wine and spirits brand, Christian Navarro — including The NINETEEN 62 Club, a luxe lounge at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena and premium concession kiosks at four OVG facilities — the first offshoots of a venture with Navarro that Bodie also spearheaded.

Bodie’s new role will increase from capital development, mergers, and acquisitions to a focus on new revenue streams including overseeing all day-to-day operations for OVG globally, as well as leading OVG’s executive committee of highly diverse and accomplished executives into this next stage of growth.

According to the company, Bodie, a graduate of Stanford University who has worked in the facilities business since high school “when I helped load-in the Ringling Brothers Circus at STAPLES Center,” has raised more than $12-billion of invested capital for seven venues that OVG built and opened in the last 18 months, including the $1-billion-plus makeover for the redevelopment of Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, New York’s $1.5 billion UBS Arena, the $375 million Moody Center in Austin, Texas; the $300 million Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, Calif.; and the $200 million CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore.

In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Bodie says that after OVG’s year-and-a-half growth surge, her father — who she refers to as “Tim” — identified a need for processes and communication. So, this position is about building depth and organizational structure, and to put processes in place for [OVG360 CEO] Chris Granger to grow his company.

Bodie, who is the mother of two sons, 8 and 4, says her new role “will also allow me to strengthen our international platform, which is going to be a huge focus for us these next few years.”

In an interview with Billboard earlier this year, Tim also said that international was a big part of OVG’s future.

I am very excited about it. The seeds that we planted even during COVID are just now showing fruition and growth. April 19 is the big opening for Coop Arena [in Manchester, England], which is the first facility we are opening internationally. It’s the largest arena in the United Kingdom, with the largest private investment in any facility in the U.K. It is going to change touring in Western Europe. That’s going to be the start of our domino effect. Our strategy has always been that we have to be in the most influential capital markets in the world. São Paulo, Brazil is under construction; Madrid is in our pipeline as is Vienna, after we  won the bid against pretty tough competition. Once we make that private investment — and we have strong local partners in each of those markets — we’re going to expand our service business in coordination. Taylor Swift’s tour has shown that fans are traveling internationally, but the overseas markets don’t have the facilities that we have here. Acts are still playing in buildings that were built many decades ago. So, for us there’s a huge opportunity for the private sector to come in and create what the fans expect — which is acoustically perfect sound, huge amenities, a huge focus on premium hospitality, and then giving the artist a platform to play in an optimal environment, including taking care of them from a safety perspective as well as a sustainability perspective.

Coop City is the first carbon neutral arena in the United Kingdom?

The first ever in Europe. In my new role, I’m going to be a huge advocate and partner of Chris in our GOAL [Green Operations and Advanced Leadership] initiative as well as our sustainable design. LEED certification is really just about how you design the building. Where we as an industry make the most impact on facilities is operations. Not every facility is going to be able to get to carbon neutrality, but everyone can move the needle in a better way. We track water, waste and energy usage, among other metrics, and if we can improve those markers every year, that is a good thing for our environment. Now, every building that we have [owned-and-operated facilities as well as venues OVG manages or where it handles food-and-beverage service] will be on the GOAL platform, which is in partnership with AWS (Amazon Web Services). Any facility with a mass gathering can join GOAL.  We come in and measure every usage group that a facility has: water, air quality. sanitization around COVID, food waste, and obviously, carbon and energy is a huge portion of it. We take into account a facility’s age and determine what should be expected of the venue. Then we give them tools that identify areas that, operationally, they can drive better usage the next year.

In that same Billboard interview, Tim said that one day you are going to step into the CEO role.  Your promotion to COO seems like the first step in a succession plan. Is there a timetable?

I can’t make that assumption. I will say this. Tim has never been more passionate about the industry or in better shape. I have worked with him officially since 2008, unofficially since 2004, and this is the most energetic and enthused he has ever been in his professional career. OVG hasn’t even hit the halfway mark. We’re going to double in value here in the next three to five years.

So, he hasn’t discussed this with you?

If that’s his plan he hasn’t shared it with me. He always says, “Earn your keep,” so he’s instilled a work ethic in me that I’m very grateful for, but our story is about depth right now.  We made two critical hires with Chris Granger joining us — his vision around data and team-building is spectacular for that growth — and Ade Patton, a Fortune 500 CFO.  

Can you put a number on the plan to double OVG’s value?

Tim’s goal is a $10 billion company and I’ll leave it at that.

What’s your perspective on the dearth of women in music industry C-suites?

I feel fortunate because there’s no gray area for Tim on this, and it’s not because he has a daughter. It’s just how he is. We have 50-50 representation on our executive committee. There are two women and four men on our board, and we all have equal votes. It’s very important to Tim to get voices and opinions from diverse backgrounds. I don’t want to dirt anyone, but I don’t see that call to action at Legends and ASM Global – and I worked at AEG and MLSE [Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment]  —that enables the upward trajectory we have here. I’m also fortunate because [Azoff Company co-presidents] Beth Collins who’s been a great friend of mine and is also fellow board member, and Susan Genco, as well as the folks at Azoff have been incredible. Irving is a cofounder [of OVG] and I’ve known him since I was in seventh grade. It’s a shared culture system between Tim and Irving where they have strong women around them and they empower them in a way that is unique in the business.

How does your management style differ from the CEO?

Tim is a visionary. His thing is, Why not? Why can’t we do this? We are entrepreneurs. He also says, “We are not afraid.” We don’t make fear-based decisions. We stay focused. This promotion is an opportunity for me is to keep us focused as we expand. We have a tremendous appetite for additional M&A. That’s one of the reasons why we are very bullish on Family Entertainment Holdings. You are going to see our company triple down on content and make sure that our facilities have the best opportunities to diversify content. If existing facilities or new markets make sense and hit our return threshold, we are in that game of growth. And Chris Granger would echo me on the 360 side. They won 30 out of 33 bids last year, and they are on a rocket ship to diversification.

How does AEG’s sale of ASM Global to Legends affect your business?

We always anticipated there would be two [players in the facilities sector]. It doesn’t change where we’re investing capital or what our mission statement is. We have more entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to looking at partnerships and alignment. As for Legends, anybody who has dealt with the Feds recently knows that they will have to go through an approval process, just as we did with Spectra [the venue management and hospitality provider that OVG Facilities merged with in 2021 to create OVG360.]. I think they have their work cut out for them on the NFL side. That said, I have a tremendous amount of respect for that team. Shervin. [Mirhashemi, the CEO of Legends] was at my wedding and so was [AEG president/CEO] Dan Beckerman. I wish them the best, but I don’t think about them very much to be honest with you. None of us do.

Can you elaborate on the challenge Legends faces regarding the NFL?  

If you look at Legends’ role in the last bit of NFL stadiums that have come up for service bids, project management or premium or sponsorship, they have the lion’s share of them, which would seem to put customers at a disadvantage when one company will have that much market share of NFL stadiums for F&B, premium/sponsorship sales and operations.”

Have you done any new deals in the last six months that you can talk about?

We’ve done a few that will be announced in the new year that will expand our portfolio in a meaningful way in London. We are very focused on growth there. We have relationships and deals from the arena perspective both in Cardiff, in partnership with Live Nation, and in Bristol which is a great sister market to Coop. You’re going to see us continue to be very aggressive in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the surrounding regions because there isn’t a tremendous amount of density there. From a service add perspective, we’re going to be aggressively growing our executive team and actively bidding on food and beverage and facility management.

You are spearheading OVG’s Las Vegas development. There are so many venues there. How are you going to make this one different?

Vegas is this anomaly where there’s never a glass ceiling to what it can be. Look at the Wynn. It’s the most profitable hotel on the strip and it has been for decades. And every time someone tries to match it, the Wynn raises the bar a notch. T-Mobile Arena was the last facility Tim built before he left [as president/CEO of AEG]. That building is 10 years old,  and, no disrespect, it’s great for [Las Vegas’ NHL hockey team] the Golden Knights. But what we see is the need to set a new bar on touring, and that venue needs to speak to what is best in class today.

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