Cohl Can Sue LN

Michael Cohl’s countersuit against Live Nation over his non-compete and the right to promote The Rolling Stones on tour can go forward, a Miami federal judge ruled April 4.

The former Live Nation chairman and the company look to be headed for a showdown over the alleged breaches of a non-compete agreement stemming from Cohl’s 2008 resignation.

Live Nation sued Cohl for more than $5 million in November, claiming the famed promoter and now embattled producer of “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” hasn’t lived up to his end of the deal, defaulting on $5.35 million in payments for specific promotion rights. The company seeks the overdue funds plus interest and attorneys’ fees.

Cohl countersued in February. He does not dispute the financial basis of Live Nation’s claims but contends LN’s business tactics against his company, S2BN, since 2010 void the agreement. Live Nation filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the countersuit.

When he exited Live Nation, Cohl and the company hammered out an agreement that allowed Cohl to bid on and promote the “Cohl Artists” including The Rolling Stones. The agreement stipulated that Live Nation would not bid against Cohl for a Stones tour, but would co-promote any tour Cohl won and take approximately 30 percent of any profit or loss.

In his countersuit, Cohl said Live Nation sent him a letter in Feb. 2010 saying the company had determined that he “will be unable to successfully negotiate the acquisition of the rights to promote the next Rolling Stones tour.” As a result, Live Nation claimed, Cohl breached the “Letter Agreement” of the deal.

“Live Nation now has the free and unfettered right … to bid or seek to obtain directly the right to promote the next concert tour of the Rolling Stones, whenever that may occur,” LN wrote. Thus, it no longer had any “duty to share, co-promote or jointly pursue with Cohl and such rights that Live Nation may acquire.”

But according to Cohl, the Feb. 8, 2010, letter was Live Nation’s “first and only communication” on the subject and LN had “made no effort whatsoever to discuss any concerns that it purportedly had regarding Cohl’s ability to acquire the rights to the Rolling Stones’ next tour.”

Live Nation exec Michael Rowles’ attempt to clarify the letter didn’t mollify Cohl, who responded that he believed the company’s actions violated the deal by mischaracterizing its provisions. He later declined to accept an amendment to the non-compete.

By the end of the year, according to court documents, Cohl met with the Stones, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and was “expressly invited to bid for tour promotional rights” for a 2011 outing.

Live Nation, Cohl alleges, then “attempted to interfere with and destroy Cohl’s potential” to win the promotion rights. Live Nation allegedly informed the Stones that Cohl was in a dispute with the company, and “denigrated Cohl” to Stones reps in a further attempt to “damage the ability of Cohl to obtain promotional rights.”

The Stones informed Cohl and his legal team they perceived a “spat” and did not want to get dragged into it. The band later issued a press release saying they have no exclusive tour promoter because there were no “firm” plans to tour at that time.

Judge Altonaga ruled the press release was of no consequence and did not negate Cohl’s claim that his reputation was damaged by Live Nation, or provide sufficient support for a dismissal of Cohl’s claim of a contractual breach.

Altonaga, in her April 4 ruling, agreed only to dismiss without prejudice a count of breach of good faith, and gave Cohl until April 11 to file an amended claim.

However, the breach of contract claim may go forward, Altonaga ruled. “[Cohl] allege[s] the existence of a contract (the Letter Agreement), that Live Nation breached its obligations under the contract by attempting to conduct direct negotiations with the Rolling Stones for its own benefit, and that Defendants have suffered damages as a result of Live Nation’s actions. These allegations sufficiently provide Live Nation with fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests,” Altonaga wrote.