The Live Nation public relations engine was able to secure substantial coverage last year for what appeared on its face to be a very magnanimous act by its CEO: Michael Rapino forgoing his entire salary for 2020 once the COVID pandemic bore down on the industry and hit his company hard.
According to Variety, much of that fawning coverage turns out to have been inaccurate – as the executive was only going without salary for approximately a month and a half, from April 16 to June 1. When all things were totaled, Rapino actually earned $1.89 million in compensation in 2020, at a time where Live Nation Entertainment underwent several rounds of staff cuts, with one estimate putting the company at approximately 95 percent reduced during the worst stretch of layoffs. At the same time, a number of senior managers changed roles or left the company, including longtime Ticketmaster executive Jared Smith.
“It seems the company’s board deemed circumstances warranted restoring compensation at around the same time the company was hit with second and third rounds of layoffs and furloughs, in May and September,” Variety’s Jem Aswad writes.
To be sure, Live Nation wethered the storm of the pandemic exceedingly well under Rapino’s stewardship. After initially seeing a dramatic drop in stock prices in March, the company recovered quickly despite the continued pause on live events that continues to this day. After hitting a low of below $40 in mid-March, Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE: LYV) saw its share prices rebound quickly, attaining all-time high numbers of more than $80/share as vaccination efforts began to take hold earlier this year. As of Thursday afternoon, share prices remain above $82.
The compensation of senior management of Live Nation was detailed in a recent SEC filing, which shed light on some of the decisions made in the moment as the company saw revenue drop by as much as 90 percent compared to prior years.
The relevant portion of the company’s latest proxy filing — which also references compensation for president Joe Berchtold, CFO Kathy Willard and general counsel Michael Rowles, who also took substantial pay cuts — dated April 27, reads: “For 2020, (i) Mr. Rapino’s salary was reduced by 100% (i.e., he did not receive a salary) from April 16 through June 1, at which time it was restored to 50% of his contractual level through September 16, at which point the reduction was increased to 60% of his contractual level through the end of the year; (ii) Mr. Berchtold’s, Mr. Rowles’ and Ms. Willard’s salaries were reduced by 50% from April 16 through September 16, at which point the reduction was increased to 60% of their contractual levels through the end of the year; and (iii) Mr. Capo’s salary was reduced by 25% from April 16 through September 16, at which point the reduction was increased to 40% of his contractual level through the end of the year. All salary reductions were eliminated on April 16, 2021.”
Rapino and Live Nation did not respond to Variety’s request for comment regarding the timing of the salary reduction compared to the announcement of its beginning a year ago.