UPDATE: According to Ticketmaster and Front Line, the deal does NOT include a provision to exclusively handle ticket sales for Front Line managed artists, as we inaccurately stated below.
EARLIER: So much for concerns that dealmaking had ground to a halt in the wake of Wall Street’s recent setbacks. Ticketmaster announced last night that it plans to acquire big-name artist-management company, Front Line, giving the ticket retailer the exclusive ability to sell seats at shows by some of music’s biggest names. It’s also a nice score for Warner Music Group, whose stake in Front Line Ticketmaster is buying for $123 million in cash. Who says you can’t make money in music these days?
Variety: Ticketmaster will acquire a controlling equity interest in Irving Azoff’s music management company Front Line and install Azoff as CEO of Ticketmaster.
Upon completion of the transaction, Ticketmaster will change its name to Ticketmaster Entertainment. The company will be a combination live entertainment and marketing company.
Ticketmaster will acquire the stake in Front Line currently owned by Warner Music Group for approximately $123 million in cash. Ticketmaster will then issue restricted stock awards to Azoff representing approximately 4.5% of Ticketmaster’s stock. Azoff will retain a sizable equity stake in Front Line and will continue to serve as its chief executive officer.
This is a big blow to Live Nation, which is in the process of separating from Ticketmaster to sell its own concert tickets. Live Nation’s been acquiring artists, too, natch, but it hasn’t made a massive management company acquisition like this one.
So, which artists did Ticketmaster just scoop up?
Known primarily as the manager of the Eagles, Azoff’s Front Line, founded in 2004 with Howard Kaufman, has nearly 200 clients and more than 80 executive managers. Front Line artists include the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Neil Diamond, Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Nicks, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Chicago, Journey and Guns N’ Roses.
Front Line also recently hired former Billboard editorial director Tamara Conniff. If she’s thinking about leaving now, which she probably isn’t, she likely can’t go back. New editorial director Bill Werde just named his replacement as executive editor: it’s music journalist Robert Levine.
And in case you still don’t think this deal is as massively game-changing as we’ve hinted it was above. The WSJ puts a finer point on it.
Ticketmaster Inc. has reached an agreement to acquire what is widely regarded as the music world’s most powerful artist-management company and install the management company’s boss at the helm of the combined company, a bid to find a new business model for an industry undergoing seismic shifts.
The complex transaction would combine the world’s largest ticketing company with its most influential gatekeeper for talent…
By joining forces with Mr. Azoff and his numerous high-profile clients, Ticketmaster is trying to trump its rival [Live Nation]. As one person close to the deal put it, “We’ll see your Jay-Z and raise you Jimmy Buffett.”
Certain aspects of the deal between Ticketmaster and Front Line needed the blessing of Cablevision Systems Corp., which owns 10% of Front Line. An objection from that front was never likely, however. Cablevision CEO James Dolan moonlights as a guitarist in a blues band called JD & the Straight Shot — managed by Mr. Azoff.
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