Live Nation Entertainment announced today, February 7, that it had bought the remaining portion of Front Line Management that it didn’t already own, swelling the coffers of founder Irving Azoff and Madison Square Garden (MSG) by more than $100 million in cash and stock. MSG owned a percentage of Front Line Management.
At the same time, the ticketing and concert promotions giant also said that Azoff, already one of the most powerful and influential executives in the music industry, was also named chairman of Live Nation, replacing temporary Chairman John Malone. Last fall, Malone, the media mogul who spearheads Liberty Media Corp., took over the chairmanship of Live Nation from rival Barry Diller after Diller resigned the chairmanship following disagreements over the direction of the company. Diller subsequently washed his hands of the company, selling his remaining stock to Malone and resigning from Live Nation’s board.
Since merging with Ticketmaster early last year, Live Nation has struggled to find its footing, in part due to the still recovering economy ravaging the concert industry in 2010. But, with the purchase of Front Line — and Azoff’s ascension to chairman — Live Nation hopes to implement its strategy of paying artists less to tour in 2011.
Yet, the plan may prove challenging to pull off for some artists because the company would appear to have some inherent conflicts. Front Line Management is the nation’s leading music artist management company, overseeing the careers of The Eagles, Van Halen, Christina Aguilera, Kenny Chesney and others, so among its responsibilities is to maximize what it negotiates for its artists. But, as a concert promoter, Live Nation also is trying to keep its tour costs down and pay artists less in order to maximize the company’s profits.
Personally, Azoff is pocketing nearly $60 million from the purchase of the remaining portion of Front Line Management, which is on top of the millions of dollars he received for the other portions he sold to Ticketmaster in 2008.
Financial analyst Ben Mogil of Stifel, Nicolaus & Company said in a report to investors after the Front Line Management buy that while he had a positive reaction to the move, he retained Live Nation’s “Hold rating until further signs that the concert business is showing more favourable economics to the promoters.” He raised Live Nation’s fair value estimate to $12 per share; the stock, which trades under the symbol LYV, was selling at $10.80 at the close this afternoon, up 3 percent from its close on Friday, February 4.