London's O2 Arena is not up for sale, contrary to U.K. press reports, says the venue's owner/operator AEG.

According reports originating in the Sunday Times (Aug. 2), Trinity College -- part of the University of Cambridge -- is in exclusive negotiations with property owners Quintain and Lend Lease to buy the complex in East London for in excess of £20 million ($34 million).

Meridian Delta Limited ("MDL"), a joint venture between Australian property developer Lend Lease Corp Ltd and British developer Quintain Estates was granted a 999-year lease on the O2 site and surrounding area in 2002. MDL issued a 55-year lease, extendable to 100 years, to AEG.

In February, it was reported in the U.K. press that the site was up for sale. The Sunday Times revived the story yesterday, claiming that the property owners had hired London-based investment agents, to sell their interest and that Trinity was keen to sign a deal.

However, in a statement issued to Billboard today, the venue operator said: "AEG's interest in The O2 is absolutely not for sale -- it is the landlord's (MDL) underlying interest in the land on which it sits that is. AEG benefit from a long leasehold interest in the O2 which will not be affected by the sale process. Landlords, current and future, will receive a rental income from AEG."

MDL declined to comment.

Founded by King Henry VIII in 1546, Trinity is the wealthiest Cambridge College and is estimated to be one of largest owners of land and property in the United Kingdom.

According to U.K. press reports, Quintain told its shareholders last Wednesday (July 29) that MDL was in exclusive talks with a preferred bidder regarding the disposal but did not reveal the bidder's identity. A sale of the venue has been close on previous occasions, most notably to a Middle Eastern consortium, but has never been finalised.

Formerly the much-derided Millennium Dome, the O2 arena opened as a live venue music June 24 2007 with a concert by Bon Jovi. Since then the surrounding O2 Entertainment complex has grown into a hugely successful live performance venue sporting bars, restaurants, nightclubs and a cinema. Led Zeppelin, Madonna, AC/DC, Elton John, Prince and Beyoncé are among the acts to have played there since its launch.

Famously, Michael Jackson had been due to begin a series of comeback concerts at the O2 last month, with his death and the subsequent loss of potential revenue sparking speculation about the short-term profitability of the London venue.

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