Azoff Resigns

Irving Azoff resigned as chairman of Live Nation Entertainment and CEO of its Front Line Management Group Dec. 31.

“After successfully overseeing the integration of Live Nation and Ticketmaster over the past two years, my job here is done,” Azoff said in a statement. “We put together the leading company across concert promotion, ticketing, sponsorship and artist management and delivered the great results promised by the merger. I especially enjoyed my time with my partner Michael Rapino, and he has demonstrated the ability to lead this company from now on.  I’m looking forward to returning to the entrepreneurial world and continuing to work with all my friends and colleagues at Live Nation.”

With that statement, Azoff exits an empire he primarily created, beginning with the reemergence of his management company and his subsequent role in merging Ticketmaster and Live Nation, creating the largest live entertainment conglomerate in the world. Where he is heading is probably of little surprise: back to private life.

“It’s no secret that I haven’t been a fan of public companies for some time,” Azoff told the New York Times from Mexico, where he was spending the holidays. “I looked at my calendar for the beginning of next year and I was able to clear 90 days for things that went into dealing with a public company, which I can now devote to productive work.”

Front Line would remain a subsidiary of Live Nation, but Azoff is expected to walk with his personal stable of top artists – namely Eagles, Christine Aguilera, Van Halen and Steely Dan.  It would not be the first time Azoff has sold his management company, then took off with the silverware (he sold Front Line to MCA Records in 1983).

Liberty Media, Live Nation’s largest investor, is expected to buy Azoff’s 3 million shares, which are trading at about $9 apiece. Although Azoff is expected to join the board of Starz, owned by Liberty, it does not appear this is a power play to involve himself again with Live Nation or, for that matter, Sirius XM Radio, which Liberty is in the process of taking over.

“I’m never going to work for a public company again,” he told the Times. “Any public company.”

And Azoff, who backed candidate Mitt Romney for president, could also be concerned about President Obama’s tax plan. For that matter, he told the Times he resigned Dec. 31 because of “taxes and estate planning.”

“I’d love to be in some sort of uber-management situation,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a new time. there’s lot of money around that people want to invest.”

Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, weighed in:

“Irving has been a valuable partner and friend for the past few years,” Rapino said. “We will certainly miss him and we thank him for his many contributions in building Live Nation to the global company it is today, entertaining 50 million fans and selling 200 million tickets in more than 40 countries around the world.  I look forward to continuing to work with Irving on his artists’ tours for years to come.”

Rapino recently had his contract extended to 2017.