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Live Nation becomes campaign topic for Rahm Emanuel in Chicago mayoral race

By Alfred Branch Jr.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the frontrunner in this month's mayoral election in Chicago, reportedly is vowing to step aside and not involve himself in negotiations with Live Nation Entertainment and/or Lollapalooza, the music festival which is held annually in Chicago, should he win office.

The decision to stay out of any negotiations is to avoid any perception of favoritism or conflict of interest because one of his brothers, Ariel "Ari" Emanuel, is a member of the Board of Directors for Live Nation. In addition, Ari also is the CEO of WME Entertainment (WMEE), the high-powered talent agency that co-owns Lollapalooza.

Chicago has a rich music history, playing host to concerts by major artists throughout the year, so there is a chance that Live Nation or officials from Lollapalooza or WME Entertainment might find itself negotiating with the mayor's office or other city officials.

According to Wbez.org, if Emanuel is elected mayor, he will seek to appoint an outside negotiator for such circumstances. "Because, given his brother's position at WME and on the board of Live Nation, Rahm would ask the City Council to appoint an outside negotiator to handle any negotiations with these companies so that there wasn't even a question of favoritism," Ben LaBolt, communications director for Emanuel's campaign, told the Web site. Lollapalooza, which has been held annually in Chicago's Grant Park since 2005, has negotiated with the city to remain there through 2018, enjoying certain tax exemptions and other perks.

Besides the family ties that give a whiff of a conflict of interest, Emanuel's campaign has benefitted financially from executives from both Live Nation and WMEE. Both Live Nation Chairman Irving Azoff and President and CEO Michael Rapino have donated thousands of dollars to Emanuel's campaign, and so did Ari Emanuel and several executives from WMEE, according to Wbez.org.

The whole situation is being watched closely by Chicago music promoters Jam Productions, which is in litigation with Live Nation to get out of its contract. Jam has long held sway over the Chicago market, but Live Nation would love to add a jewel like Chicago to its crown.

Ari Emanuel reportedly flirted with the idea of resigning from Live Nation's board once its merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation was complete, but he remains a member.

Prior to merging his talent agency Endeavor with William Morris, Emanuel did not have any music clients. But, William Morris has a slew of major music acts, including Nine Inch Nails, 50 Cent, Pearl Jam and Backstreet Boys.

Ari Emanuel considered resigning from the board because there could be times when the interests of Live Nation, and the interests of his music clients, could be at odds.

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