CFO, Live Nation
Being in one of the most senior positions at the largest company in the live entertainment industry, Kathy Willard has a unique vantage point from which she can project a comeback. And, fortunately, she’s optimistic.
“People can’t wait to get back out and experience live shows again,” Willard tells Pollstar. “With some progress on the horizon, I’m optimistic that we’ll be once again connecting artists and fans soon.”
Live Nation was hit hard by the pandemic. In the early days, its share prices were slammed and, with virtually no revenue, the company was forced to implement cost-saving measures to weather the financial storm. The company committed to reducing costs by $600 million and secured additional funding with new revolving credit facilities in March.
As CFO, Willard was chiefly responsible for overseeing this process and making sure the numbers added up to provide adequate runway for an eventual return.
She was also one of the executives who took a pay cut at the beginning of the pandemic, as it was revealed in April her salary was reduced by 50%.
“I’m proud of how we kept our balance sheet strong while doing everything we could for our employees and industry,” Willard says. “Even without significant revenue this past year, we’ve managed to keep the confidence of our fans, artists, employees and investors throughout this time. Our stock has continued to reach all-time highs over the past couple of months, which is truly a testament to public’s confidence in Live Nation and desire to return to live events.”
Willard has held the position of Live Nation CFO since 2007, after her first nine years working in roles including Chief Accounting Officer. During that time, she’s seen Live Nation grow dramatically. The company was projecting a 10th consecutive record financial year in 2020 before the pandemic arrived. Instead, in its financial reports for the full year and Q4, the company showed an 84% sink in revenue (92% in Q4).
But Willard remains bullish about the company’s financial goals moving forward, and she is also looking forward to the company’s growth in other ways.
“As CFO, I’m especially proud of our efforts to increase our spend with Black and minority-owned vendors; we spend over $2 billion annually on staging and sourcing our shows, and we can make a real difference by directing that purchasing power to drive economic empowerment,” Willard says. “Today there are significantly more women and people of color in senior positions of visibility and authority than when I started, which makes me hopeful for the future and continued progress. There’s still progress to be made, and Live Nation has strengthened our commitments to further diversity and inclusion internally and in our communities.”
In addition to her work as Live Nation CFO, Willard sits on the board of directors for the House of Blues Music Forward foundation and holds its work of helping underserved youth access music professionals dear to her heart. Outside of her work with Live Nation, Willard sits on the board of directors of cybersecurity company McAfee.
When the industry comes back, you’ll find Willard at the Hollywood Bowl, one of her favorite venues.
“There are few experiences more enjoyable than seeing a show under the stars in L.A.,” she says.
She also plans on checking out a number of festivals including BottleRock in Napa, Calif., Rock In Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Reading in England.
At this point it seems to be a given that Live Nation will be ready whenever large-scale concerts can resume and that it will inevitably return to the strong position it operated from before the pandemic.
While navigating an entire year without revenue has been a nightmare for the entire industry, Willard has shouldered her responsibility and credits her team for getting to this point.
“None of what we have accomplished would have been possible without the support of an incredible Live Nation team,” she says. “Despite the challenges for our industry and our company, our employees adapted faster than we could have imagined, showing incredible creativity and resilience.”