Live Nation & Ticketmaster Near Merger
Live Nation & Ticketmaster are near a merger according to sources sited in today's Wall Street Journal. The move would combine the world's top concert promoter and the largest ticketing firm. Ticketmaster also owns a huge stake in Irving Azoff's uber-management
firm Front Line. The deal which does not have final approval of either board would not involve cash and could be announced as early as next week.
ANALYSIS: While Live Nation would appear to be the stronger of the two companies, it's not yet clear who would up as top dog in this deal. From Azoff to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino and all the way down the alphabet to promoter Danny Zelesko, the names involved are a powerful and cantankerous "Who's Who" of live music. The smart money has to be on Azoff, who just added Ticketmaster CEO to his business card, as the front-runner to lead the combined company. Insiders say its hard to imagine him doing any deal that didn't leave himself on top.
While early reports are that he would stay with the company. the merger might be bad news for Rapino, who has really just started to realize his vision of a unified, smarter and more consumer friendly concert industry. Live Nation's new ticketing platform which floundered last week during a Phish on-sale, would also seem a redundancy The merger could also explain rumors that Randy Phillips may be leaving his post as head of concert rival AEG since the giants are all lining up against him.
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Competition is always a good thing and at the top this means less of it. Talk of lower ticketing fees just went out the window. But as the big boys get fatter, it also makes room for younger leaner competitors. Just as a new middle class of artists is beginning to find its footing in a post major label/major media age, a new middle class of concert promoters may find its footing as well.