Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore insisted the authority’s cash crisis was NOT behind the decision to sell the NEC Group.
The Labour-run authority confirmed it was to dispose of the Solihull-based NEC, ICC and NIA Arena earlier this week.
The decision had been widely predicted with the council needing cash to settle its £1 billion equal pay bill after former workers won the right to compensation.
But Sir Albert said the NEC Group needed private sector investment on a level the authority could not provide and it would still have been sold in other circumstances.
“The time to bring in new capital investment has come up,” he said. “We would be putting the growth of the NEC Group at risk if we did not go down this path.
“We are growing the NEC but our capital programme is stretched and we cannot come up with the investment figures needed. We would therefore block the growth of the NEC.”
Birmingham City Council developed the NEC back in 1976.
Sir Albert admitted that, after 38 years, the sale would be “tinged with sadness” but said it would be “overcome by the thought of an exciting future for the NEC Group”.
The NEC was opened by The Queen at a time when few thought it likely an arena and exhibition centre outside London could attract big events.
But this week sees the venue again hosting the Crufts dog show, while Beyonce sold out shows at the LG Arena last month and the ICC will host the Tory Party conference for the fourth time this autumn.
Both Sir Albert and NEC Group chief executive Paul Thandi refused to put a figure on the sale, although speculation last year suggested a sum in the region of £300 million and rising.
And the council said it would ensure the existing uses of the various arenas and centres were maintained for a “significant” time to ensure Birmingham and Solihull continued to attract world class events.