Garden cultivates Front Line deal

Madison Square Garden takes stake in firm

Aiming to bulk up its music-related properties, Madison Square Garden has acquired a minority equity interest in Irving Azoff and Howard Kaufman’s Front Line Management, the world’s largest personal music management firm.

Deal positions the Garden with a management company that lists the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Neil Diamond, Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Nicks, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Chicago and Journey among its clients. Front Line has been a leader in striking exclusive deals for recordings with Wal-Mart, releasing discs by the Eagles and Journey and beginning talks regarding the next studio effort from Fleetwood Mac. Company has also been bulking up its roster by acquiring boutique management firms.

Cablevision-owned Madison Square Garden will explore ways to incorporate Front Line into its various businesses and develop new initiatives to take advantage of the artist roster.

Financial terms were not released.

Madison Square Garden has been looking to expand its music business and has been relaunching the cable network Fuse as the country’s only channel dedicated to music. Talks took place earlier this year to create an entity that would involve the Garden, Ticketmaster and concert promoter AEG Live, but nothing was finalized.

“This acquisition perfectly complements our current assets and strengthens our strategic vision to grow our music portfolio — a major component of our current business plan,” Hank Ratner, vice chairman of Madison Square Garden and Cablevision, said in a statement.

Besides the Garden, MSG Entertainment owns the Beacon Theater and the Chicago Theater along with other venues.

A year ago, Barry Diller’s IAC acquired a chunk of Front Line by buying the equity holdings of financial companies Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Co. Warner Music Group owns a stake in the company.

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