Paul Allen, one of the nation’s wealthiest men, has purchased the controlling interest in Ticketmaster from one of the nation’s wealthiest families to expand his interactive multimedia portfolio.
Sources said Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, paid Chicago’s wealthy Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain, between $ 325 million and $ 350 million for a roughly 80% stake in the company. The Pritzkers will hold a large piece of the remaining equity in the computerized ticketing company.
“Ticketmaster is an important vehicle for the informational and technological highway of the future, and will complement my existing suite of technology companies,” said Allen, an investor in a handful of information technology companies.
Pritzker officials could not be reached, but a source said the family chose to sell the bulk of its Ticketmaster holdings largely because it is not involved in the developing world of interactive multimedia — a tie that would enhance the company’s value.
“If you start dealing with the fact that all these new technologies are bombarding you, you need somebody with the expertise to guide you through it,” said Fredric Rosen, Ticketmaster’s president and chief executive. Rosen, who was also chairman, gives that title to Allen.
Allen co-founded Microsoft, the dominant software giant, with high-school classmate Bill Gates in 1975. He retired a billionaire from the company in 1983, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, which is now in remission.
In 1985, he started his own software firm, Asymetrix Corp. and owns or has invested in a number of other companies involved in developing multimedia digital communications.
Allen also owns National Basketball Assn. team Portland Trail Blazers. An avid rock guitarist, he is financing a Seattle museum honoring Jimi Hendrix. Forbes magazine recently estimated his net worth at $ 2.9 billion.
The piece of Allen’s holdings most likely to be tied in with Ticketmaster is America Online, a computer subscriber company in which he holds a 25% stake. Last month, America Online, with Ticketmaster and Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Cubs, announced the creation of a system in Chicago whereby subscribers will be able to sort through concert and sport schedules and buy tickets as well as Cubs merchandise.
That system could become a model for America Online and Ticketmaster nationwide.
Also, both Rosen and an Allen spokeswoman said the idea could be expanded into a home shopping channel for cable TV.
“I think we could create our own cable show,” said Rosen, who built Ticketmaster from a $ 1 million company when he took over in 1983 to one that rang up more than $ 1.3 billion in sales last year. Ticketmaster already has much of the infrastructure, with its 400 telephone operators and computerized access to 15,000 events, to step into the home shopping world.
Allen may be on the prowl for other media companies that might fit into his interactive plans.