LN, Merger Lobbyist Split

Live Nation has reportedly dumped Public Strategies, a public relations and lobbying firm it hired to manage its image as the U.S. Department of Justice continues to probe its proposed merger with Ticketmaster.

A Live Nation spokesman did not respond to a request for confirmation or comment at press time, but the National Journal reports that the two companies issued a statement saying they are committed to the completion of the merger.

“We believe this merger will build a more efficient and effective company moving forward,” the statement reportedly said. The companies have long said they expect the merger to be completed by year end.

It is often seen as a harbinger of bad news to come when a company dumps its lobbyist or high-stakes PR firm as the “end game” approaches.

An unexpected parting of the ways could mean damage control in advance of an impending decision or something more benign, such as a loss of confidence in the image burnisher’s work.

But the news comes hot on the heels of a blow to the merger, which hit a major snag in early October when the U.K.’s Competition Commission provisionally rejected the tie-up on the basis that it would tend to result in less competition and higher ticket prices.

National Journal did not mention if there were similar lobbying concerns with Ticketmaster. Public Strategies registered as a lobbyist for TM in April and spent $30,000 on its behalf in the second quarter. Both companies have multiple lobbyists registered, but apparently shared only Public Strategies.

According to public disclosure filings, Public Strategies appeared to do more work for Live Nation – or at least it spent more money on LN’s behalf.

Public Strategies spent $270,000 advocating for Live Nation in the first quarter and another $30,000 in the second, according to the filings. Another lobbyist, Akin Gump, filed a registration in March to rep Live Nation and spent $110,000 in the first half of the year.

Longtime TM reps Gibson Dunn & Crutcher spent $60,000 on TM’s behalf in the second quarter. And in another new lobbyist registration, former Recording Artists’ Coalition National Director Rebecca Greenberg signed on in September as a TM lobbyist, according to the National Journal.

Greenberg reportedly joined the Ticketmaster team and CEO Irving Azoff when the RAC, which Azoff client Don Henley founded, folded into the Recording Academy in January. In addition to being Henley’s manager, Azoff was a RAC board member.

While the DOJ probe continues, the U.K. ruling prompted merger critic Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-NJ, to weigh in with a statement lauding the Competition Commission’s decision.

“The British authorities came to the conclusion that to let these two companies join together would quell competition in the primary ticket sales marketplace and lead to higher ticket prices for consumers,” Pascrell said.

“Ticketmaster and Live Nation have much larger shares of the market on this side of the Atlantic. Therefore, [DOJ] would have even more reason to prevent the merger of these two companies.”