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Sharon Osbourne Slams AEG Over Staples-O2 Booking Policy; Jay Marciano and Irving Azoff Respond

UPDATED: An ongoing battle between AEG Presents and Live Nation, the world’s two largest concert promoters, broke into the open Wednesday when a fiery letter to AEG from Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy Osbourne’s manager, was serviced by a publicist to media outlets.

In the letter, Sharon criticizes AEG and shares a drafted letter, which she refused to sign, stipulating that Ozzy’s scheduled concert at London’s O2 Arena will only be confirmed if his management and Live Nation guarantee that if Ozzy “also plays an indoor arena anywhere within twenty five (25) miles of the City of Los Angeles as part of the same tour cycle as the aforementioned The O2 Shows and that show/those shows is/are promoted by a Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. group company, then you shall ensure at least one of those Ozzy Osbourne shows in Los Angeles shall be held at the Staples Center.”

Osbourne replied: “Shame on AEG for bringing artists into a power struggle you’re having with your competitor, Live Nation. I can assure you that Live Nation would never strong-arm an artist into playing a venue they’re not comfortable performing in.

“In closing, without the artists there would be no AEG, no Live Nation, no promoters agents or managers. The artists should always come first, Never forget that! There’s enough for everyone without you trying to monopolize the world of entertainment.”

Live Nation, the world’s largest promoter, is the promoter of Osbourne’s recently announced farewell “No More Tours 2” tour. (Osbourne’s first “No More Tours” tour took place 25 years ago.)

AEG Presents CEO Jay Marciano responded:

“Dear Sharon,

Thank you for your note. Please understand this dispute is between The Forum and Staples Center and we couldn’t agree with you more — it should always be the artist’s choice. We long for the days when artists and fans came first. Kindest regards – Jay

PS The other guys started this!”

The “other guys” Marciano references is not Live Nation but Azoff-MSG Entertainment, which has been engaged in a separate but related battle with AEG: For several years the two companies have been embroiled in a bitter venue war in Los Angeles that pits AEG’s 21,000-capacity Staples Center against Azoff-MSG’s 17,500-capacity Forum.

In response, Irving Azoff said:

“Dearest Jay – This is a pack of lies. I’ve put artists first my entire career, name one time you’ve put an aritst above your own self-interest. Why do they continue to do business with you? We do not block book Madison Square Garden and The Forum, it is well-established. You guys continue to use lies to validate your anti-artist, anti-industry behavior. Love, Irving. PS – Sharon, you rock. You’re welcome at The Forum any time.”

On Thursday afternoon, a publicist serviced Sharon Osbourne’s response to the press:

“Jay, Thank you for your reply,” it reads. “In your response you state that this disagreement is between the Forum and Staples Center. If so, then why did your company send the attached letter agreement for Live Nation to sign which clearly states that OZZY cannot play at the 02 in London unless we legally agree to play at Staples Center in Los Angeles? This is a staggering attempt to blackmail OZZY into playing your venue in Los Angeles. It is also a complete abuse of bargaining power and not conducive to a free market. If you do not confirm the date for OZZY at the O2 in London then I will be forced to take legal action against AEG Live! without delay.

Your note below is contradictory to the facts and I find the way you’re conducting yourself and your company to be no more than childish playground tactics. I cannot be involved in a squabble between two venue owning promoters as my interests only lie 100% with OZZY. Sincerely, Sharon Osbourne.”

Sources tell Variety that AEG’s O2/Staples requirement came about in response to a challenge from MSG that, according to sources, found the company refusing to book acts into Madison Square Garden if they played at AEG’s Staples Center in Los Angeles instead of the MSG-operated Forum. In response, sources say, AEG informed agents and promoters that acts who perform at The Forum instead of Staples will not be booked at London’s O2 Arena. The O2 is operated by AEG and is the only venue of its category — 20,000 capacity — in the city. The policy went into effect in July 2017.

The MSG-Staples standoff has affected several artists — including Chance the Rapper, Tom Petty, and Hall & Oates — who played their major New York shows at the approximately 16,000-capacity Forest Hills Stadium instead of the 20,000-plus-sized Garden, amid reports of threats that they would be prevented from playing at the Garden on future tours as well.

Today’s matchup played out on the first day of the Pollstar Live! conference in Los Angeles, which AEG has chosen not to attend since Azoff’s Oak View Group purchased the live-entertainment trade publication in July.

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