The relationship between Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino and Chairman Michael Cohl has reportedly deteriorated in recent weeks over a developing feud concerning the company’s strategy for signing exclusive deals with top-line artists.
In rapid succession in the past several months, the company signed mega-deals with superstars Madonna and Jay-Z, which combined total close to $300 million, and lesser but still significant deals with U2 and the Jonas Brothers.
The deals made a splash in the industry and perhaps point the way for how artists and entertainment companies will work together. The music industry has grappled with dwindling CD sales and burgeoning secondary ticket market over the past few years, and artists, promoters, record companies, ticket brokers and others have all looked for ways to maximize revenue streams.
Under the Madonna and Jay-Z deals, Live Nation will have a hand in touring, recording, merchandising and licensing, but Wall Street investors have questioned the moves and have shown little support for them. The company’s stock price has suffered ever since, and just after 2pm today, June 12, Live Nation stock was trading at $12.98 per share; a year ago it was trading above $24 per share. While some of the erosion could be due to the overall decline in the nation’s economy, financial analysts have questioned the largess that the recent deals represent.
According to the Wall Street Journal and other published reports, Cohl, Live Nation’s largest shareholder, favors signing more deals with stars and allegedly threatened to quit and take with him some of the company’s acts, despite having signed a non-compete clause. Cohl, who reports to Rapino, sold his company, Concert Productions International to Live Nation two years ago for a large stake in the company. Supposedly, Rapino wants to take a slower, long-term approach to signing top-line talent.
Live Nation is preparing its first tour with Madonna, and ticket sales have been brisk for all available dates. But, whether the 10-year deal will gross more than $1 billion, as Live Nation hopes, remains to be seen. As for the Jay-Z deal, the rapper/entrepreneur is coming off a successful tour, but expectations over the life of the deal are being held close to the vest.
A Live Nation spokesperson did not return a message seeking comment.