That chill you feel in the air may not only be due to the frigid winter, it could be coming from the Washington, DC/Baltimore region where a fight appears to be looming between Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division and local concert impresario Seth Hurwitz.
This week, Live Nation announced it had bought out the last remaining separate Ticketmaster franchise, located in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area, from Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which is owned by Ted Leonsis, who also owns the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition gives Live Nation direct control of the ticketing operations for the area’s Verizon Center, Patriot Center and DAR Constitution Hall, among others, which means Hurwitz, who promotes concerts in the area through his company I.M.P., will have to deal directly with his business rival Live Nation.
And now, a portion of every ticket Hurwitz sells for a concert he promotes at one of those venues goes to his competitor.
Hurwitz, who could not be reached for comment, is in the midst of suing Live Nation on anti-trust grounds, and separately he is suing Maryland state officials over a bond issue for a new Live Nation venue being built in Silver Spring, MD. Live Nation is not a party in the Maryland lawsuit.
When Monument Sports & Entertainment owned the Ticketmaster franchise, it had an arms-length relationship with Ticketmaster corporate, but that buffer is gone now that Live Nation has snapped up the franchise.
But, the move also shows just how much power Live Nation holds by essentially talking a wealthy sports team owner not to go into the ticketing business. Leonsis could have become a Washington, DC version of Philadelphia’s Comcast-Spectator, which owns the Flyers and 76ers, and operates its own ticketing business through its New Era Tickets division. Comcast-Spectacor bought the Paciolan primary ticketing division from Ticketmaster as part of the settlement Live Nation reached with the Department of Justice to gain approval of the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger.
“The agreement was set to expire in a few months, and Ticketmaster made it clear that it wanted to reclaim and operate this franchise, which was the last franchise in the U.S.,” Leonsis said in a statement on his blog. “Fans and customers in the Greater D.C. metropolitan area are assured the same great service, and we’ve worked diligently with Ticketmaster to ensure a seamless transition. We appreciate the dedication and professionalism displayed by those who represented this Ticketmaster franchise throughout the years. The Baltimore-Washington group was one of the most successful in the country, and that was a direct reflection on the men and women who represented the franchise.”
Several concert promoters, including Hurwitz, complained to the DOJ that the merger would give Live Nation access to their competitive business information; the DOJ warned Live Nation and Ticketmaster not take advantage of such situations, but whether the DOJ ever acted on any of those complaints is unknown.
“This closes a chapter for us with our U.S. franchises, and we are excited to move forward and directly deliver Ticketmaster’s latest ticketing technology and solutions to clients in the greater DC area,” Nathan Hubbard, CEO of Ticketmaster, said in a statement. “Clients and fans will have uninterrupted service and a seamless transition to the Ticketmaster platform, along with our world‐class distribution, client support, and customer service. We would like to thank the Ticketmaster DC team for being such exceptional stewards of the Ticketmaster brand in the greater DC area for the last two decades.”