Shawn Freeman, the president of Ticketmaster Entertainment subsidiary TicketsNow, is leaving the company and will be replaced by Eric Korman, currently president of the Ticketmaster diversified live entertainment and marketing division, TicketNews has learned.
The corporate shakeup has not been publicly announced, but in an email that went out to broker clients, the move became effective this week. It comes just under a year after Freeman was promoted from chief technology officer to president when former TicketsNow President and CEO Cheryl Rosner left the company. Rosner hired Freeman soon after she began with TicketsNow in the summer of 2007.
Text of the email sent to brokers Thursday evening, October 29:
To Our Valued Partners,
I’m writing to share some important company news. Shawn Freeman announced yesterday that he has decided to leave TicketsNow to pursue other opportunities. We are grateful for Shawn’s hard work and accomplishments while at TicketsNow and wish him all the best.
Although change is inevitable, and our industry is evolving rapidly, our commitment to consumers and our business partners remains the same. We remain dedicated to building the best products and offering the best consumer experiences in event ticketing.
Industry insiders with knowledge of the move are speculating that Korman, whose background includes a stint as senior vice president of mergers and acquisitions at Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, is being placed at TicketsNow to prep the secondary ticket company for an eventual sale. Korman originally joined IAC in 2001, but his connection with Diller goes back even farther; Korman’s father, movie and television executive Lewis Korman, is a long-time friend and business associate of Diller’s.
Selling TicketsNow may be one of the concessions that the U.S. Department of Justice asks Ticketmaster to do in order to complete its planned merger with Live Nation.
Separate messages left for Korman and Freeman were not immediately returned. A spokesperson for Ticketmaster also did not return a message seeking comment, and Jennifer Swanson, spokesperson for TicketsNow, reiterated the Ketchum email.
Korman’s first responsibility will be in boosting the fortunes of the occasionally maligned TicketsNow, which has been under siege from all sides over the past 12-18 months. Lawsuits concerning their business practices have piled up against TicketsNow and parent company Ticketmaster; Bruce Springsteen slammed it over the way it handled ticket sales for his recent tour; and Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff has all but cast it aside in his crusade against the secondary ticket market.
Ticketmaster, when it was under the direction of former President and CEO Sean Moriarty, bought TicketsNow in January of 2008 for about $265 million, and soon after, key executives had already begun leaving the company.
In April of this year, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Korman received “a grant of an option to acquire” 300,000 shares of Ticketmaster stock (symbol: TKTM) when it was trading at $5.33 per share. The shares will vest annually over four years in equal installments. As of the close of the market today, October 29, the stock was trading at $9.98. Korman’s annual base salary, as of July of this year, is $750,000, and he is subject to a discretionary annual bonus of up to 100 percent of his base salary.
What Korman’s exact plans are for TicketsNow are unknown, but in a January, 2008, story in The Wall Street Journal, Korman sounded like an executive willing to embrace the secondary market, something that is at odds with Azoff’s current stance.
As reporter Ethan Smith wrote: “Ticketmaster Executive Vice President Eric Korman said the company has no plans ‘in the short term’ to list new tickets for sale on its new resale sites. Furthermore, he said, if that were to change, Ticketmaster would do so only at the behest of clients, and in a way that made it clear to consumers that the tickets were being sold for the first time, not being resold.”
And the same month, in an article in USA Today, Korman again appeared to support Ticketmaster’s foray into the secondary ticket market, “We’re in a transformation in some sense,” Korman told USA Today. “We’re taking a very profitable 30-year-old company that’s a leader in ticketing and entertainment marketing and looking to expand that.”