Dubai A Mirage?

Elissa Murtaza’s retirement from Live Nation’s Dubai office may be another sign that the Middle East isn’t the growth market LN and AEG thought they were entering a couple of years ago.

Murtaza was expected to be out of the door Aug. 6. She’ll be replaced by Live Nation Middle East ops officer Tyler Mervyn, who was brought in from the company’s Vancouver, Canada, office in February.

“We’ve known for a while that Elissa was looking to retire and we’re sorry to lose her, but Tyler and the rest of the team are set to carry on her good work in the region,” said Live Nation international chief exec Alan Ridgeway, indicating the company won’t be following AEG’s lead and closing its Middle East office.

He says LN is very happy with the investment it made and still sees further opportunities in the UAE and other parts of the Middle East.

Both companies moved into the region about three years ago, picking up key staff from what was Mirage Promotions. Live Nation bought 65 percent of the company that Murtaza started 12 years earlier. She and her three private investors hung on to the other 35 percent.

Thomas Ovesen, who’d been with Mirage for six years, left the company a month earlier, saying he was quitting the business to “lie on the beach and listen to my iPod.”

He wasn’t there long, as two months later it was announced that he would head the new office AEG was setting up in the region. Fast forward to July, and the company announced it was closing its Middle East office and Ovesen and his six full-time staff would be joining Arab Media Group’s Done Events.

Both companies ran successful shows in the Middle East, particularly in Dubai and the surrounding Emirate states, without integrating the territory into their global touring circuits.

Murtaza says she’s quitting because she’s spent more than 20 years in the business and wants to have more time for her family and close friends. During her time in the UAE she’s worked with a long list of top international talent including Phil Collins, Shakira, Ricky Martin, Beyoncé and Coldplay.