The joint venture forged last year between Jim Dolan’s Madison Square Garden and Irving Azoff’s Azoff Music Management just complemented its strength in music and large venues by adding comedy and clubs. Azoff MSG says today that it bought 50% of Levity Entertainment Group, a power in comedy management and booking that also owns clubs and produces TV shows including about 100 specials for Comedy Central and Food Network’s Iron Chef. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms. But LEG chief Robert Hartmann tells me that the infusion of capital and management expertise will enable him to move on his ambitious global growth plans, which include the development of clubs that combine music and comedy. “It’s not your father’s comedy club,” he says. “It’s more a diversified entertainment destination.” Hartmann will continue to run day-to-day operations but says he’ll have a “true partnership” with Azoff – who’s best known as a manager of pop music performers including Christina Aguilera, the Eagles, and Steely Dan.
LEG’s 70 or so clients include Jeff Dunham, Jenny McCarthy, and Aaron McGruder (the cartoonist behind the syndicated comic strip The Boondocks, which also appears in animated form on Adult Swim). The deal with Azoff MSG includes LEG’s ownership stake in seven clubs including the Hollywood Improv, as well as new locations. Hartmann plans to eventually fold in his partnership interest in 24 other clubs that include Levity Live, Improv, Funny Bone, and Stand Up Live. Levity has a digital operation that owns podcast provider Sideshow Network.
Aryeh Bourkoff’s LionTree Advisors was an adviser on the deal.