Phillips Discusses Florida

AEG Live and John Valentino have made official what was already known – the 30-year veteran talent buyer and VP of Fantasma Productions is leaving the company, which has been acquired by Live Nation, and joining AEG – along with his key staff.

He has been appointed senior VP of AEG Live’s Florida office, where he will oversee his staff at the regional headquarters in West Palm Beach. Joining him will be former Fantasma colleagues George Perley, director of production; Kathy Bohan, office manager and regional comptroller; and Amanda Ances, marketing manager.

Fantasma founder Jon Stoll had kept his company fiercely independent during periods of rapid industry consolidation, beginning with SFX and Clear Channel Entertainment. However, after his death in January from complications of a stroke and brain cancer, it came as no surprise that his widow, Lori, would entertain offers for a majority stake in the company to make sure her family was taken care of.

"Lori did the right thing, with Jon being gone," AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips told Pollstar. "We offered her a lot of money but not as much as [Live Nation] did. They thought that by buying up the real estate that we wouldn’t make the deal for the people.

"We’re going to keep them like an independent company. There’s no steamroller, AEG corporate takeover philosophy. We’re not that kind of company. With us, it’s always about the people, and then the business will happen."

So Live Nation may have acquired more than just a company with Fantasma: It most likely has created a competitor in south Florida with Valentino’s jumping ship to AEG Live and opening his own office.

"[Live Nation] actually did me a favor the way this went down," Phillips said. "We were willing to buy the business even though we didn’t really crave those assets. We craved the staff. So they saved me a lot of money we can now use to compete with them."

No doubt Valentino will be an aggressive competitor and, with the resources and support of Live Nation’s chief rival, the concert scene in south Florida is likely to heat up in the coming months – which can only be good news for music fans.

Valentino comes to AEG with a hefty Rolodex and deep relationships that include not just artists, agents and managers but festivals, municipalities, theme parks, casinos, racetracks, universities and other special event groups. He’s produced thousands of shows and worked with venues nationwide in his long career.

"I am thrilled to be part of the AEG Live team – they are the perfect fit for not only myself, but my talented staff of all-stars," Valentino said in a statement.

"We look forward to carrying on in the spirit of the way we did business with Fantasma founder Jon Stoll for more than a quarter century, and I’m proud to spearhead a new chapter in Florida’s live music scene with AEG Live," Valentino said.

Valentino can be reached at [email protected] and by phone at 561-889-2618.