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, … Read More »
Until now Irving Azoff has served in an unofficial advisory capacity for Chelsea Handler – now he’ll get paid for his work. In addition to guiding Handler’s personal brand, Azoff will serve as a key adviser to Borderline Amazing Productions, the production outfit she operates with Chelsea Lately EP, Tom Brunelle, and Co-EP, Brad Wollack. The host of E!’s top-rated late night talker Chelsea Lately, Handler is positioning herself for life after her current contract expires at the end of 2014. “I have many more things I want to achieve – in addition to my nightly show, of course. I’ve known Irving for a while – actually, since he auditioned for Chuy’s job”. (Chuy Bravo is Handler’s assistant on Chelsea Lately). “I know he’s primarily a music manager, so just to stop the rumors before they start… I won’t be dropping an album”, Handler said in a release. Azoff added, “She is an original and there’s no one else like her in comedy and on television. She can be a total bitch, but I’ve dealt with a lot of those before. Chelsea is damn good at what she does and has an undeniably strong brand. She and the guys have exciting ideas for the future of her career and production company. My goal is to assist them in facilitating and realizing their vision.” Read More »
This should relieve investors who feared that Madison Square Garden Executive Chairman Jim Dolan‘s decision to invest $125M in an entertainment partnership with music manager Irving Azoff would leave the sports and entertainment company strapped for cash. MSG says that it has been “approached by certain parties expressing interest in Fuse and [has] retained JP Morgan to explore all strategic alternatives” — which usually means a sale. The music channel reaches 73M pay TV homes, and distributors pay an average of 8 cents per month for each home. Fuse could sell for about $300M, Credit Suisse analyst Michael Senno figures following Al Jazeera’s agreement to pay $500M for Current TV which collected about 11 cents per sub from distributors. That would “more than offset capital used in recent investments” including the Azoff deal and a $25M investment in Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas. Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil also notes that Fuse could command a healthy price because its deals with distributors would enable a buyer to reprogram the network to offer “anything other than live sports.” Many MSG shareholders are eager to see the company return cash to them, possibly by repurchasing shares.
Listen to (and share) episode 49 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s financial editor and host David Bloom talk about winners and losers in the CBS-Time Warner Cable deal to end the month-long blackout; the “venture capital” fund pulled together by Irving Azoff and Jim Dolan to try to grab the next big thing in entertainment; whether Real-D’s share-price problems mean 3D is in trouble; and what Hollywood legacy can Microsoft claim now that Steve Ballmer is stepping down as CEO.
Deadline Big Media, Episode 49 (MP3 format)
Deadline Big Media, Episode 49 (MP4a format)
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The longtime music manager will be CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment, which vows to develop “artist-friendly and, as a result, fan-friendly projects” in music, TV, and digital media. Irving Azoff will own 50% by folding in Azoff Music Management, where he’ll continue to handle clients including the Eagles, Steely Dan, Van Halen, and Christina Aguilera. Madison Square Garden will kick in $125M for its 50% and will provide as much as $50M in revolving credit loans. Outside of music management, Azoff and MSG Executive Chairman Jim Dolan see themselves largely as a source of venture capital. “We don’t know what the next big thing is going to be, but we want our phone to ring so we get a chance to help find it and nurture it,” Azoff tells me. “This was a dream we had to have a place where we could move quickly.”
Related: Madison Square Garden Plans $100M Revamp Of The Forum
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UPDATE: Read the unedited emails here.
EXCLUSIVE: Few things satisfy more than a fiery Hollywood feud. I’ve learned the ongoing one between Ari Emanuel and Irving Azoff flared up again this past weekend in a way that one eyewitness told me was “like Yiddish Theater, complete with Jews and their drama and their masks and coats and robes”. I wouldn’t know, never having attended Yiddish Theater. But I do know Hollywood, and this flaming raged out of control. The email war erupted between the two entertainment executives Friday, the same day as a Financial Times article was published about how well Live Nation Entertainment is doing in 2013 after music manager Azoff resigned and where WME co-founder Emanuel is on the board. It doesn’t help that Azoff’s son works for CAA as an agent, or that Azoff is reputedly using his position as an advisory board member of IMG to lend help to CAA’s designs on that sports company which WME also wants. The surprise here is that Emanuel usually sends one- or two-word-only email messages. But Azoff loves all communications technology, even infamously micro-blogging on Twitter to spar with Live Nation critics when he ran the company. (“If you want ticket prices to go down, stop stealing music.”) Trust me, feuds like this are extremely multi-faceted.
I’m told the emails were “a lot of back and forth” over the FT story but not substantive. Instead, they consisted of each man baiting the other and “devolved into a fucking bitchfest about how much they hate each other. Irving tried to be nice and, well, Ari was Ari. They kept going back and forth. Such silliness from Ari about what a ‘piece of shit’ Irving was, and then Irving saying, ‘I forgive you for being an asshole.’ Ari telling him, ‘You’re a lying piece of shit,’ and Irving replying, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ It was so ridiculous.”
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Like other parts of the music business, there’s a lot of consolidation taking place in talent management — including this announcement today from feisty independent firms Primary Wave and Violator Management. They’ve chosen the unfortunate name of Primary Violator Management for the 50/50 joint venture. Primary Wave’s client list includes CeeLo Green, Ginuwine, Goodie Mob, Eric Benet, Cody Simpson, Case and GMD3. Violator adds Curtis “50 Cent’ Jackson, LL Cool J, Mariah Carey, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Soulja Boy, and Diggy Simmons. Primary Wave CEO Larry Mestel will be in charge. Competition is intensifying: Yesterday, Live Nation Chairman Irving Azoff said he plans to announce a big music management acquisition soon. Here’s today’s release:
New York, N.Y. (September 16th, 2011) – Music industry veteran, Larry Mestel, CEO of Primary Wave Music, one of the largest independent music publishing, marketing, branding and talent management companies in the United States, announces a unique partnership with legendary music manager, Chris Lighty, Founder and CEO of Violator Management to create Primary Violator, a new powerhouse talent management firm. The new business venture will bring together Lighty and elite music manager Michael “Blue” Williams, uniting two of today’s most influential and successful talent managers in urban and pop music.
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Don’t tell Live Nation executives that their concert acts are getting old. While one-time hitmaker Neil Diamond continues to hit the stage at age 70, Chairman Irving Azoff says that “every year there’s a Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.” He adds: “We’re managing all the winners of The X Factor. We predict the tour will be huge. It’s Idol plus The Voice plus Glee on steroids.” That kind of shameless self promotion was the order of the day this afternoon as Azoff and CEO Michael Rapino made the investment case for their concert venue, talent management, and ticketing colossus at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media Communications and Entertainment conference. Rapino says that “in an overall tough economic time, we’re thrilled that the industry came off a horrible year and stabilized…. We will finish the year flat to up as an industry and the early pipeline for 2012 looks good.”
Azoff says that Live Nation plans to take advantage of the crowds that will flock to Europe next year around the Summer Olympics in London. “The biggest names in the business will be on the road,” he says. “We’ll get a non-economy blip.” One of his mainstays, The Eagles, continues to tour and plans a Broadway show called (what else?) Hotel California. “No one knows whether the Rolling Stones are touring or not,” Azoff says. The execs say that they’re also making deals that could pay off — including … Read More »
Curious that the press release (below) doesn’t explicitly say that Azoff is chairman of Live Nation Entertainment — the parent of Ticketmaster and the No. 1 owner of concert venues.
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 4, 2011 — Front Line Management and Syco Entertainment today announced a partnership which will see the future winning artist or group of the U.S. version of The X Factor managed by Front Line Management, the world’s leading artist management group.
Front Line, a division of Live Nation Entertainment, manages the careers of some of the world’s biggest-selling artists, including The Eagles, Miley Cyrus, Journey, New Kids on The Block, Christina Aguilera and Fleetwood Mac.
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It’s fascinating to watch companies in decaying industries resort to financial sleight of hand to try and survive — which is why we’re going to start paying attention to the music business. But you’d never know that music, including the concert business, is in trouble from the huge compensation packages that Live Nation just revealed it paid last year to its two top executives: chairman Irving Azoff and CEO Michael Rapino. They collectively made $38.7 million, mostly because they engineered several business deals including a merger with Ticketmaster — a combination that tightened Live Nation’s grip over the concert business but provided no discernible benefits for consumers. The financial gamesmanship certainly worked well for Azoff. He picked up a lot of Ticketmaster stock back when Barry Diller controlled the company and wanted to merge it with Azoff’s Front Line, a management firm that handles performers raging from The Eagles to a blues band that Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan fronts in his spare time, JD and the Straight Shot. Diller left Live Nation last year after losing a boardroom battle. Still, Azoff made $22.8 million in 2010, which included $13.8 million for his Ticketmaster and Front Line holdings. Live Nation also paid $731,130 to a private airplane company that Azoff owns — as well as salaries to his son, daughter and son-in-law, who hold non-executive jobs at Live Nation. Rapino ended up with nearly $15.9 million, a 138% raise over his compensation in 2009. Read More »