Randy Phillips Talks Washington

Anschutz Entertainment Group may not have been on the witness list for the two days of congressional hearings on the proposed merger of Ticketmaster Entertainment and Live Nation, but that didn’t mean the company wasn’t a presence.

Chief execs Michael Rapino and Irving Azoff both name-checked their potential top rival in testimony before a Senate judiciary subcommittee Feb. 24 and a similar hearing before a House panel two days later.

Azoff revealed at the latter hearing that AEG Live delivered a “warning” letter that “threatened” the second largest concert promoter might cancel its existing contracts with Ticketmaster should the merger go through.

“Others will most certainly leave if this merger is consummated,” Azoff told the House committee. “AEG has notified us by letter that they believe they have the right to terminate our agreement in connection with this merger. If that’s not competition, I don’t know what is,” Azoff said.

“It was not a threatening letter,” AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips told Pollstar. “We have not yet decided what our strategy will be. But we will do what’s in the best interest of our clients and the company.”

Ticketmaster disclosed the letter in a public filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission after the hearing.

Live Nation CEO Rapino also took aim at AEG, more aggressively in the House hearing than at the Senate committee, including references to owner Philip Anschutz’s wealth and suggesting AEG was a greater danger to competition and closer to true vertical integration than would be the combined Live Nation Entertainment.

To make his case, Rapino claimed that AEG Live was “one step away” from having its own inhouse ticketing system in place.

Phillips denied that AEG Live is anywhere near such an in-house system, and took issue with the testimony of both Rapino and Azoff.

“To say we’re one step away is ludicrous. It shows just how disingenuous their testimony is,” Phillips said. “We only found out about the merger a month ago, like everyone else, when it first leaked.”

It has been reported that AEG Live had been in merger talks with Ticketmaster before the Live Nation/TM proposal was announced.

“We have three years left on our Ticketmaster contract. How in the world could we be one step away from instituting a worldwide ticketing solution for our tours, facilities and concerts in less than a month? It’s impossible. It’s taken Live Nation two years to put its CTS Eventim system in place.”

Live Nation licensed CTS Eventim’s ticketing system for inhouse use, but suffered a very public setback in January when its servers crashed during a high-demand Phish reunion tour onsale.

“We’re keeping all our options open as any company would do in a situation like this,” Phillips concluded.