Live Nation buys rest of Front Line agency

Concert behemoth Live Nation Entertainment Inc. on Monday said it bought the remaining shares of Front Line Management Group Inc. that it didn’t already own for $116.2 million from Irving Azoff and Madison Square Garden. Founded in 2004, Front Line represents Christina Aguilera, Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett and numerous other musicians.

In addition, Azoff, chief executive of Front Line, becomes Live Nation’s chairman, consolidating his power at the Beverly Hills entertainment giant, which last year merged with the country’s largest ticket seller, Ticketmaster, in a deal worth $889 million.

With Front Line fully in the corporate fold, Live Nation is able to manage talent, book concerts, issue tickets and sell artist-related merchandise.

The announcement is the denouement of a corporate power struggle that played out last year between Azoff and Barry Diller, who stepped down as chairman of Live Nation on Jan. 28 after announcing his departure in September.

Diller’s departure was largely seen as payback for having crossed John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media Corp., which owns roughly 18% of Live Nation. The two, who were once close business partners, sued each other two years ago in a bitter dispute over control of IAC/InterActiveCorp., which once owned Ticketmaster, the Home Shopping Network and Malone and Diller formally parted ways in December, with Diller resigning as CEO of IAC and Malone selling his remaining shares in the company for $360 million.


As part of Monday’s announcement, Live Nation said Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei has joined its board of directors, replacing Malone.

Azoff, 62, assumes control of Live Nation at a time of declining concert attendance as consumers cut back on discretionary spending. It sold 10% fewer tickets in the first nine months of 2010 compared with a year earlier, according to the latest figures released by the company. The dip occurred even though Live Nation staged more concerts -- 15,049 events in the first nine months of 2010, compared with 14,933 a year earlier.

Live Nation shares rose 32 cents, or 3%, to $10.80 on Monday.