Firm offer may rattle music biz

Deal part of plan to build talent giant FXM

NEW YORK — Robert Sillerman is back in business.

With financial backing from founder Mark Cuban, the former chairman of SFX Entertainment is making an ambitious play to buy his way back into the entertainment industry, starting with a bid for the successful music management company the Firm.

Sillerman, 51, who ankled SFX after selling the company to mammoth radio station chain Clear Channel earlier this year (for a massive $4 billion in stock and debt) is joined in the venture by Mike Ferrel, SFX’s former CEO, and Mitch Slater, ex-chief of Northeast-area concert promoter and SFX unit Delsner/Slater.

The Firm, run by Jeff Kwatinetz and Michael Green, reps a host of platinum-selling artists, including Limp Bizkit, Korn and the Backstreet Boys.

Deal is part of a larger scheme bankrolled by Cuban, to create a talent management juggernaut, called FXM, with broad interests in popular music, and eventually film and television.

If all goes according to plan, Sillerman and his cohorts will likely target other firms in those spaces to consolidate into the new entity, which could wield considerable influence.

That sort of top-level power brokering is nothing new to the aggressively entrepreneurial Sillerman.

During his time running SFX, the executive practically cornered the market on concert promotion, to the dismay of smaller competitors in the space. Under his watch, SFX became the No. 1 national player in a largely regional business that ran more than 50 major venues nationwide.

And last year, Sillerman solidified SFX’s near-stranglehold on the live event market when he scooped up the assets of bankrupt theater concern Livent for a reported $110 million, beating out a rival offer from deep-pocketed cabler Cablevision Systems.


In 1997, Sillerman’s dealmaking prowess was on full display when he unloaded all of SFX’s 71 radio stations to investment firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst in a $1.2 billion deal — that put more than $250 million into his own pocket.

“He’s a very creative exec who’s made a lot of money for himself and his shareholders,” said one Wall Street entertainment analyst.

Sillerman’s tenure at SFX wasn’t all sweetness and light. The company drew the ire of shareholders just before New Year’s eve last year after a number of extravagant events it had booked to commemorate the year 2000 met with sparse demand from punters. The resulting displeasure on Wall Street sent SFX’s NYSE-listed shares plummeting from the mid $30s to a 52-week low of $25 in early December.

Cuban himself is not a stranger to profiting from his own savvy entrepreneurship. He sold, which at the time was one of the Web’s most successful music streaming companies, to Yahoo! last year for nearly $5 billion. He runs private equity firm Radical Ventures and owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

None of the parties involved in the deal was available for comment.

(Jill Goldsmith in New York contributed to this report.)

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