Azoff’s ‘Idol’ Stake?

Irving Azoff is reportedly adding some muscle to film and TV producer Allen Shapiro’s $550 million-plus bid to buy CKX.

Azoff is not immediately putting up any money but is ready to invest as much as $200 million for a minority stake in CKX if Shapiro’s bid wins out, according to the New York Post. CKX owns the rights to “American Idol” as well as the likenesses of Muhammad Ali and Elvis Presley.

Shapiro’s bid, which is backed by JP Morgan Chase’s private equity arm One Equity Partners, is up against 19 Entertainment’s Simon Fuller, who has reportedly made a $600 million bid and was instrumental in the creation and expansion of the TV show. Fuller sold his company to CKX in 2005 for $300 million.

It’s not surprising for Azoff to be interested in “Idol,” which puts aspiring singers on TV in front of millions. Live Nation is handling the next “Idol” tour, which had been produced by AEG.

An anonymous source told the Post that Azoff believes he could assist in the marketing of future ‘Idol’ tours. Azoff, a longtime powerhouse artist manager, was named CEO of Ticketmaster shortly before it announced plans to merge with tour promoter Live Nation, of which Azoff is now chairman.

The interest in CKX demonstrates that investors still believe “Idol” is a valuable franchise, despite continuing without superstar contest judge Simon Cowell next year and recently enduring its lowest season-finale ratings in its history.

Of course, any bid for the publicly traded CKX would need to pass scrutiny from current shareholders, including CKX figurehead Robert Sillerman, who suddenly left the company a few weeks ago and holds a 20 percent stake.

Rumors abound that Shapiro had a say in forcing out Sillerman, whom a source described to the Post as a “wounded bear.” Sillerman is also reportedly interested in bidding to take the company private.

Another source told the Post that Shapiro’s bid would most likely prevail. “They don’t have all the sturm and drang that the others have,” the source said.

Shapiro runs the TV Guide channel and was a factor in a leveraged buyout of Dick Clark Productions.