Azoff resigns as Live Nation chair, sells stake

Updated at: 12/31/2012 4:07 PM
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(AP) LOS ANGELES - Irving Azoff, the longtime manager of the Eagles band, is resigning as chairman of concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and selling off 1.7 million shares to Liberty Media Corp.

Azoff, 65, will continue to manage some of the acts that he brought to the company, including the Eagles and Christina Aguilera, but he will no longer be the CEO of Front Line, the artist management company he sold to Ticketmaster in 2008.

Live Nation, which merged with Ticketmaster in January 2010 after intense government scrutiny, said in a statement it did not expect Azoff’s departure or the restructuring to have a material impact on its operating results.

The surprise announcement Monday came in a slow period during the winter holidays, when companies sometimes release news to avoid a lot of media attention.

The announcement followed word from Live Nation on Friday that it had extended the term of CEO Michael Rapino for another three years, through December 2017.

Liberty Media’s stake in Live Nation will increase to 26.4 percent from about 25.5 percent previously. It was not immediately clear if Liberty intends to boost its stake further or seek majority control. A Liberty spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Live Nation is now well positioned and we have tremendous confidence in Michael Rapino and his leadership team," said Liberty CEO Greg Maffei. Liberty Media is controlled by billionaire John Malone.

Live Nation’s merger with Ticketmaster sparked industry concern because of the grip the concert promoter and venue owner would have on the live music industry. Ticketmaster remains by far the largest seller of tickets to concerts and sporting events in the country. The merger prevented a nasty fight and destroyed healthy competition for consumers, since Live Nation then aborted its move to sell tickets to its own venues and compete with Ticketmaster.

The benefits from the merger have been scant. Live Nation shares have fallen from above $16 since April 2010 to below $10 and have never recovered.

Liberty, meanwhile, has taken greater interest in the company, regularly calling on Rapino to address investors at its conferences. In September 2010, media mogul Barry Diller resigned as Live Nation’s chairman in what was described as a boardroom struggle with Malone.

Live Nation did not name a chairman to replace Azoff.

A securities filing Monday said that as part of stepping down, Azoff will be paid $3.5 million in bonuses and another $8.2 million to settle a note he held as part of his Front Line sale. Also Azoff will benefit from accelerated vesting of about 2 million shares and 664,000 options.

As of a week ago, Azoff had more than 3 million shares, which means that even after his share sale, he’ll still have a stake in the company. He’ll also continue to lease space in a company office building, the filing said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)