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Live Nation takes complete control of Front Line, Azoff becomes chair

By | Published on Tuesday 8 February 2011

Live Nation

Live Nation yesterday announced it had taken complete control of Front Line Management, and that its founder, Irving Azoff, would become chairman of the wider company’s board of directors.

Ticketmaster bought a controlling stake in Azoff’s management organisation back in 2008, before it then merged with Live Nation in 2010. Azoff, who retained a minority stake in Front Line, took a senior executive role at Ticketmaster as part of the 2008 deal, and then became Executive Chairman of Live Nation after the 2010 merger.

Yesterday Live Nation announced it had bought Azoff’s remaining shares in Front Line, plus stock owned by another minority shareholder, the Madison Square Garden company, in a $116.2 million deal which saw the live music conglom hand over both cash and stock.

As part of the deal Azoff becomes chairman of the Live Nation board. Although he has had the job title of Executive Chairman since the Live Master merger, to distinguish himself from the merged group’s other top man Michael Rapino, who has the title CEO, Azoff did not actually chair the board of directors of the company.

As previously reported, originally Barry Diller, one of Ticketmaster’s main shareholders, fulfilled that role post-merger, although he stood down last year and quit the board completely last month. Then John Malone, the boss of Liberty Media, another big Live Nation shareholder, and sometime rival of Diller, took to the chair on an interim basis. Azoff will now take over from Malone.

At the same time Liberty increased its shareholding in Live Nation, and their CEO, Greg Maffei, joined the group’s board.

Confirming all these changes, the aforementioned Rapino told reporters: “Through this transaction we will further simplify and consolidate our operating structure. By acquiring full ownership of Front Line, we expect to benefit from substantial savings related to cash taxes, the elimination of the dividend and operating synergies resulting in an increase in our free cash flow in excess of $20 million annually. Front Line is a tremendous asset and a key component of our live entertainment and marketing platform. We look forward to Irving’s ongoing contributions as we continue to focus on increasing the growth potential of our combined operations”.