May 16, 2007 TicketScoop
By Alfred Branch, Jr.
In a move to continue growing its Ticketmaster brand, IAC/InterActiveCorp has bought an undisclosed but “significant stake” in the artist agent company Front Line Management, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Terms of the deal were not readily available, but IAC was expected to buy out the equity holdings of financial companies Bain Capital Partners LLC and Thomas H. Lee Co., among others. In late April, the music news site FutureMusic reported that Warner Music Group was negotiating to buy Front Line, but those talks cooled soon after. Warner Music Group reportedly owns an estimated 8 percent of Front Line and is not expected to sell it to IAC at this time . . .
The move comes at time when Ticketmaster is aggressively trying to protect its primary and burgeoning secondary ticket business from emboldened ticket brokers and StubHub! and its parent company eBay, which the company is currently suing. In addition, the company is seeking to ward off the continued encroachment of concert promoter Live Nation. Last month, Live Nation cracked Fortune magazine’s annual list of the 1,000 largest companies in the U.S., and the Wall Street Journal said it may have been interested in acquiring Front Line, too.
While other aspects of the music industry, primarily CD sales, have suffered recently, the concert and artist merchandise sectors remain relatively strong, and with IAC’s purchase Ticketmaster will gain further entry into those worlds.
Front Line, owned by music management giants Irving Azoff and Howard Kaufman, represents a virtual who’s-who of major label musicians, including Jimmy Buffett who continues to be among the top concert draws in Ticketnews.com’s exclusive rankings of ticket sales. According to the investment gurus at The Motley Fool, Front Line has gobbled up about 40 small management firms over the past few years in its own attempt to shore up its core business.