Industry Noize: LN To Change Tactics In The Balkans?

Tim Dowdall’s departure as Live Nation’s Central & Eastern European chief will likely cause the promoting giant to effect a swift change of tactics in the region.

Although there was the Croatian disaster involving the disappearance of Vlado Ivancovic of Adria Entertainment, LN’s Croatian partner who left behind millions of dollars of debts, it wasn’t the only reason for Dowdall having to step down.

Steven Todd, who has overseen LN’s Polish operations for more than a decade and has been named as Dowdall’s successor, may first need to draw a line through great chunks of the territory he’s inherited.

Live Nation's new head of Central & Eastern Europe.  

LN’s zest for emerging European markets and its desire to create what it used to call its “global footprint” have led the company into countries that quite simply don’t have much money.

Todd is the obvious replacement as Poland is one of the old Eastern bloc countries’ genuinely growing markets.

Since the 2012 European soccer championships it’s had stadiums in four of its major cities – Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk and Wroclaw – and drivable roads between them. His first job in his new role will likely be to cross out such countries as Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.

Apart from Hungary, where Dowdall was based, the rest of his patch included Czech Republic and Russia, at least until LN opened a separate office in Moscow in 2012.

Dowdall’s Russian shows with Nadia Soloviev of SAV Entertainment and Mikhail Shurygin of Nord Concert Alliance must have been among the safest bets he had.

The rest of his territory amounted to all the countries Todd could be putting a line through, a much safer tactic than searching for gold in the Balkans.

Even the region’s award-winning major festivals, Exit in Serbia and Sziget in Hungary, depend heavily on attracting festival tourists from more affluent European countries.

If Dowdall ventured further south, he’d have reached Greece and Turkey.

In 2013 the state of the Greek economy would have put in on the cross-out list, while there were riots in the streets in Turkey.

If Todd is even slightly tempted to make strategic gains or promote in the Balkans, he must know that he could well be drinking from the same poisoned chalice that just got Dowdall.

Although there’s a widely voiced opinion that the Croatian mess was the reason for Dowdall’s departure – it can’t have helped that it happened on his watch – it was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There’s also a question mark over how LN did due diligence before buying 20 percent of a Croatian company that carried a $2.4 million tax liability – apparently without realising it. It wasn’t possible to get comment from Dowdall at press time.

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