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Barry Diller resigns as Live Nation chairman

The former studio chief expects to exit his post by year's end. Some say his departure is the result of a power struggle with Irving Azoff, the company's executive chairman.

September 30, 2010|Alex Pham and Dawn. C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times
  • Barry Diller, who helped orchestrate the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, said: "I only planned to stay as chairman through the transition and integration of the two companies. Above, Diller, left, with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) at the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte.
Barry Diller, who helped orchestrate the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster,… (Associated Press )

What goes around comes around.

That appeared to be the case for Barry Diller, who announced his resignation as chairman of Live Nation Entertainment Inc. at the company's board meeting Tuesday in Beverly Hills.

The 68-year-old former studio chief who helped orchestrate the colossal merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation confirmed his departure Wednesday at a technology conference in San Francisco, saying he would be out before the end of the year.

The merger, which was finalized in January, brought together two of the most forceful personalities in Hollywood, media mogul Barry Diller and music industry power broker Irving Azoff.

Although Diller and Live Nation said the decision was amicable, people close to the company's 14-member board say he was a casualty of an internal power struggle with Azoff, the company's executive chairman, and John Malone, who also sits on the board and owns 14% of its stock. Diller's stake in Live Nation is 1.5%.

"Irving and Malone took him out the back and shot him," Bob Lefsetz, a music industry analyst, said of Diller. "He's done."

Diller, the former chairman of Ticketmaster, became chairman of Live Nation Entertainment after the merger, which had been positioned as a combination of equals. Azoff and Diller repeatedly clashed, as Diller attempted to assert control over the business, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

One point of friction: Diller's desire to serve on the compensation committee, which was opposed by a majority of board members, a person familiar with the matter said.

The trigger may have been a dispute between Azoff and Diller over how best to lift the company's lackluster concert business, which has suffered as consumers pull back on discretionary spending. Live Nation's concert revenue fell 7% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, contributing to a $34.6-million overall loss on $1.3 billion in revenue. Attendance, meanwhile, fell 6% in the quarter.

The company's stock, which hit $16.70 on April 26 on the momentum of the merger, has languished over the summer as Live Nation posted disappointing quarterly financial results. It closed Wednesday at $9.96, up 11 cents.

The company at its July board meeting said it would cut prices to drive attendance, but executives differed on whether artists, many of whom are represented by Azoff, should bear the brunt of the pain in the form of lower payments, according to people familiar with Live Nation.

The executives did not respond to requests for interviews; neither did Malone, whose relationship with Diller soured in 2008 when the two sued each other over Diller's plan to break up IAC/Interactive Corp. Diller is chief executive and Malone owned 23% of its stock. Diller prevailed in court and subsequently spun off IAC's HSN home shopping network, Ticketmaster, Interval time-share business and LendingTree online mortgage referral company.

Azoff downplayed reports of high-level strife at Live Nation, tweeting Wednesday morning on Twitter that, "As usual, the press reports are ridiculous."

Azoff wrote that Diller had always intended to step down from the Live National board within a year of the combination. "I look forward to continue to work with him during his time on the board," Azoff wrote.

Diller also issued a statement: "I have always said, since the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, that I only planned to stay as chairman through the transition and integration of the two companies. It's been almost a year and I informed the board today that while there was no rush, the board should start the process now to appoint a new chairman."

Times staff writers Meg James and Jessica Guynn contributed to this report.

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