Column: Big-name concert promoters wrangle for control of the Greek Theatre

Guitarist-singer Bernard Sumner fronts New Order during a July performance at the Greek Theatre. The venue's contract with its management company is up, and concert promoters are vying for control.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Music fans who go to a lot of shows might not realize the backstage venue tussles that are a feature of the competitive Los Angeles concert scene. But the battle for control of the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park offers a good snapshot; it’s getting heated and stars three of the city’s biggest promoters.

One one side is Live Nation; on the other are AEG and Nederlander Concerts. Combined, the bidding for control typifies the hardscrabble nature of the concert biz in Los Angeles.

Those who visit the Greek’s website will get a quick (albeit biased) rundown of the drama via a pop-up window: “Nederlander Concerts, a family owned company, would like to continue its 39-year tradition of putting YOU — fans, artists, Angelenos — FIRST when it comes to The Greek Theatre. We stand challenged by Live Nation / Ticketmaster, a publicly traded Wall Street conglomerate.”


That challenge? For the past 39 years, Nederlander has held the 40-year contract to manage the city-owned Greek, the outdoor amphitheater that’s one of the jewels of the music scene. The family-owned company also books the Santa Barbara Bowl, City National Grove of Anaheim, the Pantages Theater (which it owns) and others; as well, the company owns landmark theaters throughout the world.

The contract for the Greek comes up for renewal in 2015. Enter Live Nation and AEG. The former is gunning to add the theater to its holdings of L.A. venues, which include the Wiltern, the Palladium and House of Blues; the company also leases on an event-by-event basis venues including the Forum, the Honda Center, the Hollywood Bowl and others. AEG, which owns the massive L.A. Live entertainment center and, through its Goldenvoice subsidiary, owns and operates Coachella and Stagecoach and books the Fonda, the El Rey, the Shrine and others, has partnered with Nederlander in an attempt to stave off Live Nation’s bid.

Live Nation, which proved itself to City Hall after it produced the successful Made in America festival in downtown Los Angeles, has already secured the support of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, according to a report in The Times’ L.A. Now blog.

However, according to that same report, neighbors of the tony Los Feliz neighborhood that houses the entrance to the Greek and who must endure the crowds throughout the season, are mostly siding with Nederlander’s bid.

In her L.A. Now report, Times reporter Emily Alpert Reyes spoke to one resident, Joan Moseley, who said that with Nederlander, “we feel safe. We don’t have beer cans anymore. We don’t have condoms anymore.” She added: “This new group I know nothing about.... Do you know what their safety record is?”

For its part, Live Nation stresses that a city evaluation panel has given high marks to it bid.


“You have a 40-year incumbent who does not want to go ... and we understand that the community has valid concerns about a new operator,” Victor De la Cruz, an attorney for Live Nation, told L.A Now. “We intend to prove them wrong,” he added.

The decision was to be announced this week but it’s been postponed until next week to allow for more public discussion.

Regardless of who wins, the Greek will likely see a big renovation with the new contract. Both Live Nation and Nederlander/AEG have said that they’ll invest millions in the theater. Nederlander has promised upgrades to include refurbishing the Greek’s original 1930s columns, a new restaurant and upgraded concessions, a year-round cafe and “a comprehensive environmental impact plan to minimize the Greek’s impact on the environment.”

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