Did he jump or was he pushed? The truth may never come out, but for Sean Moriarty, the brilliant former head of Ticketmaster Entertainment’s ticketing operation, the end was not a big surprise, according to industry insiders.
News of Moriarty’s departure from Ticketmaster broke late yesterday, March 30, six days after his resignation was tenured, according to the company, and comes as the company battles to have its proposed merger with rival Live Nation ratified by the federal government.
During his two-year tenure as head of the company, Ticketmaster spent at least a half billion dollars on the acquisitions of TicketsNow, Paciolan, GetMeIn in the UK, China’s Emma Entertainment and Front Line Management, the latter being the deal that brought in Irving Azoff as Moriarty’s new boss, who many believe greased the skids for Moriarty’s departure.
“It was inevitable,” said Gary Adler, general counsel for the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB). “It wasn’t a big surprise. It probably didn’t bode well for Sean when Irving Azoff testified before Congress that he wouldn’t have done what Sean did in buying TicketsNow.”
Despite all the money Ticketmaster spent on those acquisitions, the moves did little to help its stock price once the company was spun off from parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp late in the summer of 2008. Ticketmaster’s stock trades under the symbol TKTM, and it plunged along with the overall market last fall from a high of $27 per share into the low single digits. The stock closed today at $3.65, down about 2 percent from yesterday’s close. See ticker below.
The performance of the acquisitions, two of which were in the secondary ticket market (TicketsNow and GetMeIn), which became political punching bags because of the way the company handled some ticket sales between the primary and secondary markets, gave Azoff fodder for advancing his dislike of the secondary market within the company. Partially at Moriarty’s expense.
“As that company has expanded, who knows who’s in charge of what,” said Tom Patania, owner of Select-A-Ticket and the President of the NATB. “But, clearly there was some disagreement among the chiefs.”
The NATB is currently squabbling with Ticketmaster and Live Nation over the proposed merger, but Patania and others had praise for Moriarty. “I think Sean told you where he was at and where the company was at, and he obviously embraced the secondary market. He understood it, and he was a visionary. He may be taking the fall for some of the company’s recent problems, but the market had a lot to do with it. If the stock had remained in the $20 range, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Don Vaccaro, CEO and founder of TicketNetwork, parent company of TicketNews, agreed.
“Sean Moriarty knew software, ticketing, and the marketplace, and was one of the brightest guys in ticketing. He will be missed,” Vaccaro said.
Asked for his opinion on what Moriarty’s departure might mean for ticket brokers, Harris Rosner, owner of VIP Tickets uttered what several other brokers said, “To early to tell!”
Ticketmaster and Live Nation hope to finalize their merger in the second half of the year, but the two are waging a war against the secondary market, not only through their comments before Congress last month, but also through behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts for the elimination of ticket presales at the state level, a move that could hurt brokers.
According to the two company’s, Live Nation’s head, Michael Rapino, would run much of the company should the merger be approved, while Azoff would be Executive Chairman.
“He resigned with two hands on his back as he was standing on a ledge 50 stories above the street,” said one ticket broker who believes Moriarty was forced out. “Someone had to take the fall for paying $200 million too much for TicketsNow.”