The City of Irvine, California is being asked by the Department of Justice to hand over a number of documents related to its dealings with entertainment giant Live Nation Entertainment, part of the federal investigation into the company’s business dealings and allegations of unlawful and anticompetitive practices. The documents were demanded in a December letter to city officials from Brittany Diamond, a trial attorney from the Antitrust Division of the DOJ, according to reporting by Irvine Watchdog.
According to the Civil Investigative Demand (CID), the documents are related to its “Investigation of Competition in Ticketing and Concert promotion Services” – an inquiry which became public during the fallout from the badly botched Taylor Swift Eras Tour ticket sales process. It specifically requested for the California city to “submit all documents relating to the City’s potential partnership with Live Nation to develop a new venue within the City of Irvine.”
The inquiry is the latest twist in the ongoing saga between Live Nation and Irvine, which rejected what one official called a “lopsided” proposal to develop a new concert venue in the city to replace the aging FivePoint Amphitheatre, which closed in October of 2023. The deal, which was defeated by a 3-2 vote in the city council in 2023, would have seen taxpayers fund the majority of the construction costs for the facility, which Live Nation would then have nearly full operational control over, from setting the event calendar to retaining all parking and sponsorship revenue.
“We would be engaged in gross malpractice as public policy makers to be approving this contract tonight,” said Councilmember Larry Agran, one of multiple city officials to propose an independent venue be built by the city, open to events brought by multiple promoters rather than exclusively the Beverly Hills-based giant. “I am enthusiastic about the idea of an amphitheater in the Great Park… we just have to not rush into some crazy decision here.”
During the back-and-forth of the fight for the venue, Live Nation allegedly indicated that a choice to develop an independent venue might cause the world’s leading entertainment promotional company to avoid programming tours at the venue – a frequent accusation related to Live Nation and its ticketing subsidiary, Ticketmaster – and one specifically forbidden in consent agreements it entered when the companies merged more than a decade ago, which was extended after a DOJ investigation in 2019.
“That was absolutely discussed by Live Nation, in that they simply won’t throw acts our way,” Irvine Vice-Mayor Tammy Kim told Voice of OC at the time of the negotiations.
Such allegations are almost certainly of interest to the Antitrust Division in its current investigation of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which could result in a number of penalties, up to and including a full break-up of the giant.