The venue for Jewellery & Watch Birmingham, the NEC, has announced that its owners Birmingham City Council are planning to sell the entire complex for around \u00a31bn.\r\n\r\nBirmingham's council has been at the centre of a lengthy dispute over equal pay. \u00a0The legal bill and the money needed to settle is thought to be somewhere in the region of \u00a31bn.\r\n\r\nIn a statement, the NEC said: "Principal objectives of the proposed sale are to secure an investor who shares the vision and strategic ambitions of the NEC Group and to maximise the proceeds for Birmingham City Council. Bringing the NEC Group under private ownership will enable the business to take full advantage of its growth opportunities and reach the next stage of its development."\r\n\r\nThe NEC Group is a major contributor to the West Midlands economy, and the firm claims it delivers direct and indirect economic value of \u00a32 billion a year to the surrounding area, as well as supporting some 29,000 jobs in the region. The NEC added: "Securing and enhancing this economic impact is a key objective for Birmingham City Council."\r\n\r\nThe City Council will invite potentially interested buyers to participate in a pre-qualification process while sale preparations are finalised, and\u00a0intends to ensure that the existing uses of the exhibition centre, International Convention Centre and two arenas (LG Arena and National Indoor Arena) are preserved.\r\n\r\nThe City Council also intends to retain claw-back rights over certain land at the main NEC site, so ensuring that it preserves potential future development value from the site, which will be adjacent to the new Birmingham Interchange HS2 station when it is constructed.\r\n\r\nThe NEC Group also includes national ticketing agency (The Ticket Factory), a catering business (Amadeus) and NEC Group International which is involved in the operation of third party-owned venues.\r\n\r\nSir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:\u00a0\u201cA key purpose of the City Council investing in establishing the NEC Group more than 30 years ago was to drive economic development and regeneration.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis has been achieved, but now the NEC Group has reached a point in its evolution where it needs to be able to adopt the financial disciplines of a private, rather than a council-owned company to enable the next stage of strategic development. In doing so, economic impact and job creation can be preserved and enhanced.\r\n\r\n\u201cAn open sale process has been identified through an extensive strategic review process as the way to achieve full value for this internationally-renowned asset, whilst achieving the other principal objectives of enabling the Group to achieve its potential and growing economic impact.\u201d\r\n\r\nMartin Angle, chairman of the NEC Group, added:\u00a0\u201cWe look forward to working with Birmingham City Council in preparing the NEC Group for this major step forward and believe that its iconic status and portfolio of venues and businesses is likely to attract strong interest from potential buyers, from both the UK and overseas.\u201d\r\n\r\nBirmingham City Council and the NEC Group have retained Gleacher Shacklock LLP as financial advisers and Wragge & Co LLP as legal advisers in relation to the sale process.