The Palais Theatre Management Company, which has overseen the operations of the iconic St Kilda venue for eight years, has been dumped by Port Phillip Council, The Age reports.

The council has shortlisted Live Nation Australasia and Playbill Venue Management to take over running the 89-year-old venue, which has become a controversial flashpoint for the area.

Neil Croker, chief executive of the Palais Theatre Management Company, said he was “immensely disappointed” by news the company who’ve run the venue since 2007 had been deposed.

Mr Croker told Fairfax the company was in a “tender situation” and had placed a tender bid that the organisation was “very happy with and proud of”.

“Clearly council had stronger offers from other parties and quite possibly we were at a disadvantage because we are in the business and knew the costs involved,” Mr Croker said.

Among the organisation’s achievements are increasing the number of shows hosted from 30 a year to more than 100 annually, including acts like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Farnham.

Mr Croker said the company had also made the entertainment offerings at the Palais more diverse, breaching out into comedy, as well as ballet and opera.

The company’s success was reflected in industry tallies like those released annually by Pollstar. In 2013, the Palais was named one of the top 25 highest-grossing concert venues in the world.

“If Live Nation Australasia does indeed take over, it could prove an interesting quagmire for the Melbourne live music scene.”

“We’re very proud to turn the business round like that and we are very proud of our community record,” Mr Croker told The Age.

Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss said the council acknowledged the “important contribution” the Palais Theatre Management Company had made to the venue.

“Making this decision public now is in the interest of fairness for all parties, including the incumbent,” she added.

Cr Voss said all three tender proposals had been assessed against the council’s seven objectives for the Palais, including fitting with the development of the St Kilda Triangle.

As Tone Deaf reported back in November, the St Kilda Triangle will finally undergo the transformation Melburnians have been eagerly awaiting for some time now, with plans to complete the project by 2018 or ’19.

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Port Phillip Council are planning to spend up to to $400 million transforming the Triangle into a tourist hot spot, complete with two new live music spaces – a general performance space and an amphitheatre.

Meanwhile, after a prolonged period of uncertainty as to the fate of the Palais, the council and state government are jointly funding more than $20 million in urgent repair work to the venue.

The Palais Theatre’s new operator is expected to be announced in March. The Palais Theatre Management Company will continue on as operators until 2017 when their lease ends.

If Live Nation Australasia, the Oceania-based offshoot of global events giant Live Nation, does indeed take over, it could prove an interesting quagmire for the Melbourne live music scene.

As Live Nation promotes its own events, it could make fellow promoters reticent to hold their events at the Palais, thus handing over business and ticketing data to a rival promoter.

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