New chair of Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger yet to be named

John Malone said Friday that Barry Diller’s decision earlier in the week to resign as chairman of Live Nation had nothing to do with his relationship with Malone or his company, Liberty Media, which owns 14% of Live Nation. Malone serves on the company’s board.

Speaking at an investor conference in Manhattan, Malone said “Barry always said (his tenure as chairman) was going to be temporary.” Malone added that his and Liberty’s relationship is “totally healed from our historic dispute.” Diller and Liberty in 2008 filed a barrage of lawsuits against each other over voting rights pertaining to Diller’s desire to split his company, IAC, into five separate companies. The matter was eventually resolved.

Diller resigned his chairmanship at a Live Nation board meeting on Tuesday. A new chairman has yet to be named.

Malone conceded on Friday that the concert business is going through a rough patch, with many summer tours cancelled. Live Nation’s stock is down some 40% since April, trading at about $10. Malone bought his stake when shares were priced at about $12. “Do I think the stock is worth $12 today? Yes,” said Malone. “Is it a $16 stock (its price in April) now? No.”

From the time that the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster closed on Jan. 25 through June 30, the company reported an operating loss of $45.3 million on revenues of $1.9 billion.

But Malone said Live Nation’s numbers “may look artificially ugly,” and that he still believes in the “powerful premise” of the company, which is essentially three businesses; ticket sales, concert promotion and talent management. “Each is a dominant player in its space,” said Malone. Of course, there “will be a little bit of growing pains,” he added. “We are happy to be an investor.”

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