Azoff Music Management will acquire the Madison Square Garden Company’s 50 percent interest in Azoff MSG Entertainment for $125 million, the companies announced today. Once the transaction is complete, the company will be called The Azoff Company. The two companies simultaneously announced that they have entered into multi-year consultancy agreements that will see the Azoff Company continuing to advise MSG on endeavors including the Forum and MSG Sphere initiative, which includes announced plans to build state-of-the-art venues in Las Vegas and London.
The Azoff MSG Entertainment joint venture was officially established in 2013, although the pair had been working together since 2004. Its most prominent project has been the re-establishment of the 17,500-seat Forum as a major Los Angeles venue in direct competition with the similarly sized Staples Center. The venue was purchased by MSG in 2012 and underwent a $150 million renovation under the watch of Azoff’s wife Shelli, who managed the venue until December of last year, when she stepped down to become CMO of Azoff-MSG and handed over the day-to-day roles of managing the venue to GM Nick Spampanato (who stepped down six months later). The Forum and Staples have been at the center of a long-running turf war between their two parent companies that resulted in AEG’s recently-dropped block-booking policy, whereby many artists who wanted to play at London’s O2 Arena were prohibited from performing at The Forum; AEG claimed the policy was in response to a similar one between Madison Square Garden and The Forum. The policy was recently dropped in the wake of a lawsuit over it from Ozzy Osbourne.
“I am extremely proud that my partner, Jim Dolan, and I built an innovative company which always put the artists’ and songwriters’ interests first,” said Mr. Azoff, chairman and chief executive officer, The Azoff Company. “The Azoff Company will build on this foundation of positive disruption and artist advocacy: we will continue to challenge antiquated parts of the entertainment business on behalf of artists and fans. The Azoff Company is proud to renew our commitment to the Forum and MSG’s transformative vision for the best possible live entertainment experience.”
“Irving has been a valued business partner and we know that he will continue to enjoy incredible success in his company and in his continued role with us. This evolution of our relationship comes at a time when we are working to align all areas of our business to support our goal — the creation of next-generation venues that will transform the live experience,” said Jim Dolan, executive chairman and chief executive officer, The Madison Square Garden Company. “We will continue to rely on Irving’s relationships and expertise to help bring that vision to reality.”
In February 2018, MSG announced its plans for MSG Sphere, state-of-the-art venues that are being built to pioneer the next generation of immersive experiences. The first MSG Sphere venue in Las Vegas, MSG Sphere at The Venetian, is expected to open during fiscal 2021, followed by a second MSG Sphere venue, to open approximately one year later in London.
Azoff Music Management will pay MSG $125 million for MSG’s 50 percent interest in the joint venture. Completion of the transaction remains subject to certain closing conditions, including financing. J.P. Morgan served as financial advisor to MSG and Centerview Partners served as financial advisor to Azoff Music Management.