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Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger gets Justice Department's approval

But to ensure price competition, the music-industry goliath would have to create a pair of rivals.

January 26, 2010|By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Ben Fritz and Randy Lewis

As recently as 15 months ago, it appeared that Ticketmaster would face major competition from Live Nation, which in December 2008 began selling tickets for its own venues and for others. It quickly gained traction and grabbed 16.5% market share -- nearly all from Ticketmaster, according to documents filed by the Justice Department.

Just two months after Live Nation's entry into ticket sales, the two companies announced their intention to merge into a new entity with a combined value of about $2.5 billion.

Live events have been the only relatively healthy segment of the ailing music business in recent years. In 2009, North American concert revenue was a record $4.4 billion, according to Pollstar, a 10% increase over the previous year.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation executives have argued that the merger would benefit consumers. "It will give us greater flexibility in how we promote, market and sell tickets to events," Ticketmaster's Azoff said in February at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing looking into the deal. "It will give us a pathway to alternative pricing and fee structures."

The Justice Department took a differing view and refused to let the deal go through without significant revisions.

"I think the Department of Justice got a good settlement for the consumer and at the same time gave the businesses involved at least a chance at the promised efficiencies," said Jim Rill, a partner at the Howrey law firm, who served as assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust under President George H.W. Bush.

The proposed settlement would have to be approved by a federal judge after a 60-day comment period.

Based on Monday's closing prices, Ticketmaster shareholders would receive nearly $889 million of Live Nation stock, which would give them 50.01% control of the combined entity. Azoff will be its executive chairman. Michael Rapino, chief executive of Live Nation, will retain his title.

Some longtime critics of Ticketmaster and Live Nation welcomed the heightened scrutiny that the proposed 10-year settlement would bring the companies after they merge.

"This puts Live Nation Entertainment under a microscope, a place we wished Ticketmaster and Live Nation were under a long time ago," said Seth Hurwitz, a Washington, D.C., club owner and concert promoter.


Times staff writer Todd Martens contributed to this report.

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