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Concert Giant Rearranges Top Ranks as Returns Sag

April 14, 2002|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clear Channel Communications, the nation's biggest radio and concert conglomerate, has ousted its two top concert executives in a management shake-up, sources said Saturday.

Sources said Brian Becker, chief executive of Clear Channel's entertainment division, had been disappointed with the performance of the concert operation's co-chiefs, Rodney Eckerman and Irv Zuckerman. It was unclear Saturday whether the two would take other roles at the company. Veteran concert executives Don Law and Dave Lucas are expected to be named the new co-chiefs.

The move follows a poor year in the concert industry that was compounded by canceled tours and lower attendance after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Clear Channel's entertainment division, which promotes concerts, motor sports and other events, saw its 2001 pro forma earnings, a critical measure for media companies, plunge 21% to $153 million.

The San Antonio company recently handled major concert tours for 'N Sync and Madonna, but it has failed to secure tours from other big acts, such as Britney Spears and Creed.

The shake-up comes as Clear Channel, which dominates the nation's concert business, is continuing to expand. Clear Channel has expressed interest in buying its closest competitor, Los Angeles-based House of Blues, which also has received interest from Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, former Ticketmaster chief Fred Rosen and radio broadcaster Entercom Communications Corp., sources said.

Any deal for Clear Channel to buy House of Blues would likely be scrutinized by the Justice Department. Last month, a New York congressman asked antitrust officials to examine allegations Clear Channel sought to undercut the recent sale of New York promotion firm Metropolitan Entertainment to a Clear Channel rival, concert executive Mitch Slater. The company has denied any impropriety.

Last week, the Justice Department sued Clear Channel over its policy prohibiting diabetic concert-goers from taking their medical supplies with them into venues. The federal lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, accuses the company of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by forcing people with diabetes to choose between attending concerts or taking unreasonable health risks. Clear Channel maintains its concert policies are in accordance with ADA.

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