Live Nation, Ticketmaster In Merger Talks

Live Nation and Ticketmaster are on the verge of a merger agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition late Feb. 3. The merger would create a new company called Live Nation Ticketmaster and consolidate two of the biggest players in the live entertainment world.

Irving Azoff, whose Front Line Management recently merged with Ticketmaster, would remain with the new company, according to the Journal, as would LN CEO Michael Rapino. Typically in a merger of this magnitude, a figure such as Azoff could be reasonably expected to be offered a seat on the new company’s board of directors.

Ticketmaster Entertainment and Live Nation boards have yet to approve any merger, which could require review by antitrust authorities on the basis of the concentration of so much power in one company, the paper reports.

In addition, the Journal says the deal would not entail a cash transaction, and could be completed as early as next week.

Ticketmaster Entertainment, trading as TKTM, has reportedly lost roughly 40 percent of its value in the last three months, according to CBS MarketWatch. Its stock closed at $6.14 at the end of Tuesday trading. Live Nation shares have fallen by half in the same period and closed at $4.99.

MarketWatch reports that Ticketmaster has a market capitalization of approximately $351.3 million, while Live Nation’s is roughly $390.2 million.

The companies were considered to be in fierce competition for lucrative ticketing contracts. Both have suffered lapses in ticket onsales in recent days, although TM is widely considered to have the infrastructure to handle massive onsales while Live Nation’s ticketing arm is seeing its first days.  Live Nation’s fledging ticketing division crashed during a Phish onsale and the fallout was very public. Ticketmaster reportedly had problems, too, processing orders for some Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band fans hoping to get tickets for the New Jersey show during that tour’s onsale Feb. 2.

If the merger is approved, it comes at a time when Live Nation revs up for summer, with Jimmy Buffett already on sale (with reported ticketing problems at the Charlotte, N.C., onsale) and U2’s onsale as little as 60 days away.  The pressure for accurate ticket inventory is likely tremendous.

Live Nation’s previous agreement with Ticketmaster to service its venues ended Dec. 31, and the company recently made a deal to service SMG venues worldwide.

Ticketmaster responded by acquiring Front Line Management, which represents more than 200 artists. However, Live Nation has locked up superstars including Madonna and Jay-Z in comprehensive “360” deals, with other major acts including U2 signing with the company to manage rights excluding recording deals.