Madison Square Garden invests $125 million in Irving Azoff firm

Veteran music biz mogul Irving Azoff, the outspoken manager of the Eagles and former chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, today unveiled a new venture with another of the concert industry’s heavy hitters in the Madison Square Garden Co.

The newly created Azoff MSG Management will encompass Azoff’s current management business, which includes such clients as Christina Aguilera, Van Halen, Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, and have tentacles in publishing, digital media and television production. 

MSG is investing $125 million for 50% ownership of the firm and is also agreeing to provide up to $50 million in revolving credit loans. Since departing Live Nation on New Year’s Eve, Azoff has been working closely with MSG on the latter's multimillion-dollar refurbishment of the Inglewood venue the Forum, which will reopen Jan. 15 with a three-night stand by the Eagles.

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“This is a space that we've long wanted to be deeper into -- the content space, the artist relation space and the development of new business opportunities inside of music and entertainment,” said James L. Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Co.

Azoff MSG Management is launching with investments in separate divisions dedicated to pursuing publishing assets, television production and social media marketing. Well-known executives from multiple entertainment arenas are linking with Azoff MSG Management.

Lawrence Randall, former head of programming and entertainment for the NFL Network, will oversee a television production and live event branding unit. Additionally, Randy Grimmett and Sean O’Malley, two veterans of performance rights organization ASCAP, will lead a publishing firm, of which Azoff MSG Management will own 90%.

"Iriving is going to run everything," Dolan said. "We're going to be a good partner, but he is not subject to a board of directors. He just has me. We're setting the tiger loose."

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Azoff stopped short of calling the new firm a one-stop-shop for artists, but indicated that he aimed to continue to expand the reach of the manager’s role. Azoff MSG Management will own 50% of Digital Brand Architects, a social media marketing firm and talent agency, and Azoff said he is open to investing in new businesses in the entertainment and live music space.

“If there were [a mobile] app that empowers acts to be able to get their tickets to a real fan at a price they want to get it to them, then that's something that if someone invents it I would like to know about,” Azoff said. “Artists never really seem to band together and use their power and clout to get things done that they need to get done.”

Azoff said the company is actively seeking new talent for its management roster. Among the developing artists Azoff is working with is "The Voice" winner Casssadee Pope. 

Azoff’s noncompete clause with Live Nation, however, will through 2015 limit the manager in taking on more established acts, according to Live Nation SEC filings. He is allowed to sign emerging artists with "no prior material revenues” without restraint. Through the start of 2015, Azoff can link with just five artists with revenues equal or less than $5 million.

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“We're not sitting here saying we'll only take established artists,” Azoff said. “We've never publicly issued an artist roster, but the roster has expanded nicely in the last six months.”

Azoff MSG Management is also working with tech company ACTV8, in conjunction with United Talent Agency, for a series called “Streets of the City,” which is described in a press release as an “interactive, live music discovery TV show.” Viewers will be able to support contestants on the show via crowd-funding.

This isn’t the first time MSG has invested in an Azoff property. The former in 2008 purchased a minority interest in Front Line Management, Azoff’s earlier management outfit. The latter is owned today by Live Nation Entertainment.

Azoff on Dec. 31, 2012, resigned from Live Nation's board of directors and his role as CEO of Front Line Management, which represents more than 250 artists.

Live Nation in 2011 finalized its purchase of Front Line by paying $116.2 million to Azoff and Madison Square Garden. With the purchase, Azoff became chairman of Live Nation, which in 2010 merged with the country's largest ticket seller, Ticketmaster, in a deal worth $889 million.


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