Malone Talks LN Buyout

Liberty Media’s John Malone – a Live Nation Entertainment director and one of its biggest shareholders – told reporters at the Allen and Co. tech and media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, that taking LN private would make economic sense and give the company a chance to “settle down.”

And in an almost offhand remark, he suggested LNE chief exec Irving Azoff would “love to take it private.”

The comments recall a recent report in the New York Post that the swingers of two of Live Nation’s biggest bats would make a move to take the company private in the not-too-distant future.

“It would probably be nice for it to be private for a period of time, to settle down, to get everything working smoothly, having predictable financial outcomes,” Malone told Bloomberg News.

“This would probably be enhanced if they were private,” Malone said. “I’m sure Irving [Azoff] – as he’s said publicly – would love to take it private.”

Malone’s Liberty Media holding company is Live Nation’s biggest shareholder with about 22 percent of its outstanding float. And Azoff, through his own holdings and those of his companies and trusts, likely controls a hefty percentage as well.

But a revealing remark during Malone’s conference downtime wasn’t about Live Nation or its stock, but about Liberty’s CEO, Greg Maffei – another recently minted LN director.

Malone revealed that much of Liberty’s recent deal-making, which includes taking stakes in Home Shopping Network, Sirius XM and the Atlanta Braves baseball team, has been driven by Maffei. And so far, Maffei’s apparently been getting a nice return on investments.

“Maffei is batting 1,000,” Malone told Bloomberg. “Even the Braves are doing well. So if Maffei says ‘Do it,’ you write a check.”

Whether Maffei says “Do it” to writing a check to buy out Live Nation Entertainment, or partner with Azoff or any of the other large investors to “do it,” doesn’t appear to be as easy as wishing so. Malone also admits that a deal for LN could be tough going.

“Could we afford it? It may be a little out of reach right now,” he told Bloomberg. “Between here and getting it done is a pretty major financial challenge.”

Live Nation’s two biggest private equity shareholders are funds Shapiro Capital Management and Tiger Global Management, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Traders responded well to the Bloomberg report. LYV shares rose 75 cents per share by the end of trading July 7, closing at $12.26 per.