As the proposed merger between Ticketmaster Entertainment and Live Nation supposedly inches closer, a group of state attorneys general, led by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, is considering launching an investigation into the matter.
In a statement released yesterday, February 5, Blumenthal first said he was investigating Ticketmaster for its handling of recent ticket onsales for Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming tour.
Fans who logged into Ticketmaster’s Web site earlier this week to buy Springsteen tickets found out the show had quickly sold out, but they were then rerouted to the company’s secondary ticket seller TicketsNow where tickets are priced considerably higher. The incident so upset Springsteen and others that he fired off an angry missive on his Web site demanding Ticketmaster stop doing that, which was then met by an unprecedented apology from Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff.
“Glory days for Ticketmaster — and its reported stranglehold on tickets — cannot be used to manipulate the market and cut out consumers,” said Blumenthal in a statement. “I am deeply disturbed that Ticketmaster may be exploiting its market dominance — funneling consumers to its subsidiary in order to inflate profits.
“My office is investigating complaints from rejected consumers who believe Ticketmaster gave them the illegal run around when they wanted to see Bruce sing ‘Born to Run,'”he added.
Neither Ticketmaster nor Live Nation are commenting publicly about the possible merger, but it could reportedly happen as early as next week.
Live Nation spent more than a year divesting itself from Ticketmaster – Live Nation was Ticketmaster’s biggest client – in order to create its own ticketing operation, so the proposed deal would appear to come at a curious time. However, Live Nation stumbled out of the gate last month, suffering computer glitches with onsales for Phish tickets.
Some have speculated in Pollstar and other publications that the proposed merger was partially for Live Nation to beat AEG Live, which was also reportedly in merger talks with Ticketmaster.
“This Springsteen sale raises disturbing questions about Ticketmaster’s relationship with TicketsNow — and whether tickets that should have been available were improperly diverted,” Blumenthal said.
“This experience heightens my concerns about antitrust and consumer protections raised by Ticketmaster’s possible merger with Live Nation. I will be discussing with other attorneys general possible investigation of such a merger,” he added.
Elaborating about the proposed merger, Blumenthal told the Bloomberg news service that the two companies may need to determine whether the deal could withstand scrutiny.
“There are various issues that have to be assessed. The size of the resulting entity and its potential market dominance could be anti-competitive so far as it creates an entity that has excessive market share,” Blumenthal told Bloomberg.