Hallett Walks Out To Help Anschutz In

Rob Hallett’s recent walkout from Mean Fiddler looks to be heralding Anschutz Entertainment Group‘s first steps to becoming a European live music promoter.

The Los Angeles-based company is backing Hallett’s new Megafactor operation and considering cementing the relationship by employing him and putting its touring business on an international platform.

AEG Live President/CEO Randy Phillips confirmed that Hallett is “a strategic partner and we’re funding him.” He also owned up that “we’re talking about him as becoming our senior vice president of international touring.”

By revealing the deal, Phillips ended weeks of speculation about Hallett’s future and squashed U.K. business rumours that his next stop would be Clear Channel.

Hansard Communications, the Mean Fiddler Music Group’s financial public relations advisers, put out a January 28 press release saying, “Mean Fiddler announces that Rob Hallett has today stepped down from the main board of the company but will continue to work closely with Mean Fiddler’s international touring division on a co-promotion basis.”

However, Phillips indicated that the former MFMG director’s departure was negotiated at least a couple of months ago.

When asked if he thought Hallett – who was under contract to the Fiddler – may face an injunction for breaching that contract and falling foul of any “non-compete” clause it contains, Phillips said, “He negotiated a settlement with [Mean Fiddler chairman] Vince Power back in October.”

From the wording of the Hansard press release, it would appear that settlement hinges on Hallett working on a “co-promotion basis” with the Fiddler in the future, thereby ensuring his former employees continue to get a slice of the action. At press time, neither Mean Fiddler nor Hansard had commented on whether this is the basis of the agreement or not.

Neither had it been possible to get a comment from Hallett but, on the face of things, avoiding an injunction would prevent him getting back into the situation he faced when he quit Derek Block Agency a couple of decades ago.

As Duran Duran was breaking, Hallett decided to jump the DBA ship and move on to Apollo Leisure, but DBA won a High Court injunction that effectively stopped Hallett from working for a year.

Phillips said AEG, whose Concerts West had last year’s top-grossing U.S. tour with Prince, will “need to start making international offers at some point.”

When Pollstar pointed out that Clear Channel had Prince’s last European tour, Phillips (who once managed the act) replied, “That’s true, but there’s a next time.”

He played down the fact that AEG’s latest move could be seen as the company wanting to slug it out with Clear Channel in Europe, and said he didn’t think things would come to that.

Pointing out that he has great respect for many CCE promoters – including Thomas Johansson, Michel Perl and Leon Ramakers – he said he didn’t see why it shouldn’t be possible to work with them.

“Part of their success is that they’re independent promoters,” he explained, and added that Clear Channel promoters are “all smart enough not to force someone to build a competitor.”

He granted that Clear Channel is something of a dominant force in the U.K., but said its pan-European domination is “more of a myth than anything else” and named Marcel Avram (Entertainment One – Switzerland), the Jack Utsick-Frank Van Hoorn combination (WE Entertainment – Holland), and Arnie Worsoe (ICO – Denmark) as being among the viable alternatives.

So far, AEG’s European expansion has been in the venue business and includes ownership of London’s Millennium Dome and Manchester Evening News Arena and the building of a new arena in Berlin. It did have a stake in the old London Docklands Arena but pulled out just before it took on the Dome.

As far as expansion via acquisition is concerned, Phillips admitted AEG had looked at the Mean Fiddler as a possible target but said he doubted it was the only company to have done so.

When asked if AEG was still looking at it, he said, “Haven’t made a decision yet.”

In October, Evolution Securities Ltd. arranged the sale of Power’s £12.8 million worth of Mean Fiddler shares, allowing him to step aside to spend more time with his family and work on his autobiography. Within a couple of days of the move, new chief exec Dean James had upset key staff, Power had to return and the deal was scrapped.