LN Talking Turkey

Live Nation is believed to be trying to grow its European reach by partnering with top Turkish promoter Pozitif Productions.

Reports from the region say LN and Istanbul-based Pozitif are on their way to forming a new 50-50 joint-venture company, also based in Istanbul.

LN chief exec Michael Rapino told Pollstar there’s nothing to report and no deal has been done. “We are always looking at market expansion – Turkey is one of them,” he said.

Pozitif chief Cem Yegul would not comment on the situation, but did say his company already has a very close working relationship with LN.

It would be difficult for LN to just buy a majority share of Pozitif.

Since last spring, the Turkish company has been 80 percent owned by corporate giant Dogus Holding, which did the deal through IMG Worldwide, its media and entertainment subsidiary.

Although it’s ranked among the country’s top promoters, last year Pozitif had a disastrous summer season as civil unrest caused it to cancel its One Love Festival – which had Blur, New Order, Keane, The Vaccines, James Blake, and Foals – and its Istanbul Calling shows headlined by Snoop Dogg, 30 Seconds To Mars, Sigur Ros, The Prodigy, and Basement Jaxx.

The company also lost the job of booking and producing the country’s 30,000-capacity Rock-N-Coke Festival to Sziget Cultural Management, the Hungarian organization behind that country’s Sziget, Balaton Sound and Volt festivals.

Pozitif international promoter Baris Basaran is one of an unknown number of staff believed to be moving from Pozifit to the new LN venture.

In the eight months since the IMG deal, Yegul has also had the support to expand on an international basis.

Pozitif is a multi-faceted business. Even if its international touring division passed across to the new LN venture, it still has enough other business within Turkey to continue as a separate unit.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Dick van Zuylen, currently a director of LN’s Mojo Concerts and based in The Netherlands, could also be involved.

He has a good working relationship with Yegul, who has confirmed that the Pozitif board regularly uses Van Zuylen on a consultancy basis.

Turkey isn’t a completely new territory for LN, as in 2006 merged partner Ticketmaster bought Billetix, by far the country’s largest ticket firm.

A marriage between LN and Pozitif would appear to be one of mutual convenience.

Even without competition from Purple Concerts, Pozitif’s first year of being largely owned by Dogus was a financial disappointment.

Despite the recent increase in the number of tours that it’s getting via Live Nation, it’s still facing stiff competition from BKM. Even some of the tours Live Nation promotes on a global or European basis, such as Justin Timberlake, have gone to BKM in Turkey.

BKM, which has made so much money out of films that it can bankroll a promoting company, also worked with LN on Madonna’s show at Turk Telekom Arena June 2012.

Although Turkey’s a huge market with a population of more than 80 million, the downside is – as the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported Feb. 17 (the day Pollstar learned of LN’s Turkish move) – the country’s economy is in such a parlous state that it’s “potentially the detonator of a broader global crisis.”

Neither does LN appear to be deterred by its last foray into the Balkans, a 25 percent purchase of Vlado Ivankovic’s Adria Entertainment, which folded within two years.

Two months ago Tim Dowdall, LN’s former head of Central & Eastern Europe, who was based in Hungary, was replaced by Steve Todd from the company’s Polish office.