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Live Nation reels in Front Line

Irving Azoff named chairman of board

Live Nation Entertainment has acquired the remaining equity stake in Irving Azoff’s Front Line Management for $116.2 million in cash and stock.

Deal was consummated Friday, and LNE also announced Monday that Azoff, who is executive chairman of Live Nation, has been named the company’s chairman of the board. He replaces Liberty Media chairman John Malone, who took over as interim chairman with Barry Diller’s departure in September (Daily Variety, Oct. 15).

LNE bought the outstanding interest in Front Line from Azoff and Madison Square Garden — which has owned a minority interest in Front Line since mid-2008 — for $56.5 million in cash and $59.7 million in newly issued shares of common stock. Azoff received 1.8 million shares, while MSG received 3.9 million shares.

LNE president-CEO Michael Rapino said the acquisition was made to “further simplify and consolidate our operating structure,” with the company achieving “substantial” savings related to taxes and an increase in cash flow.

Azoff now assumes chairmanship after Diller’s abrupt resignation last fall amid rumors of boardroom intrigue. He exited the LNE board in January.

Azoff said in a statement, “In addition to my broader responsibilities at Live Nation, I will continue to operate Front Line and ensure we continue to provide services that are in the best interests of our wonderful roster of artists.”

The profile of Liberty Media — which acquired a majority of the LNE stock dumped by Diller late last year — is growing at the company.

Liberty’s CEO Greg Maffei has joined the LNE board and been named chairman of the company’s newly formed executive committee.

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