Diller is re­sign­ing as Live Nation chair­man

Some say his exit, to oc­cur by year’s end, is the re­sult of a power strug­gle at the firm.

Los Angeles Times - - Business - Alex Pham and Dawn. C. Ch­mielewski

What goes around comes around.

That ap­peared to be the case for Barry Diller, who an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion as chair­man of Live Nation En­ter­tain­ment Inc. at the com­pany’s board meet­ing Tues­day in Bev­erly Hills.

The 68-year-old for­mer stu­dio chief who helped or­ches­trate the colos­sal merger be­tween Tick­et­mas­ter and Live Nation con­firmed his de­par­ture Wed­nes­day at a technology con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco, say­ing he would be out

be­fore the end of the year.

The merger, which was fi­nal­ized in Jan­uary, brought to­gether two of the most force­ful per­son­al­i­ties in Hollywood, me­dia mogul Barry Diller and mu­sic in­dus­try power bro­ker Irv­ing Azoff.

Al­though Diller and Live Nation said the de­ci­sion was am­i­ca­ble, peo­ple close to the com­pany’s 14-mem­ber board say he was a ca­su­alty of an in­ter­nal power strug­gle with Azoff, the com­pany’s ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, and John Malone, who also sits on the board and owns 14% of its stock. Diller’s stake in Live Nation is 1.5%.

“Irv­ing and Malone took him out the back and shot him,” Bob Lef­setz, a mu­sic in­dus­try an­a­lyst, said of Diller. “He’s done.”

Diller, the for­mer chair­man of Tick­et­mas­ter, be­came chair­man of Live Nation En­ter­tain­ment af­ter the merger, which had been po­si­tioned as a com­bi­na­tion of equals.

Azoff and Diller re­peat­edly clashed, as Diller at­tempted to as­sert con­trol over the busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion.

One point of fric­tion: Diller’s de­sire to serve on the com­pen­sa­tion com­mit­tee, which was op­posed by a ma­jor­ity of board mem­bers, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

The trig­ger may have been a dis­pute be­tween Azoff and Diller over how best to lift the com­pany’s lack­lus­ter con­cert busi­ness, which has suf­fered as con­sumers pull back on dis­cre­tionary spend­ing.

Live Nation’s con­cert rev­enue fell 7% in the sec­ond quar­ter com­pared with a year ear­lier, con­tribut­ing to a $34.6-mil­lion over­all loss on $1.3 bil­lion in rev­enue. At­ten­dance, mean­while, fell 6% in the quar­ter.

The com­pany’s stock, which hit $16.70 on April 26 on the mo­men­tum of the merger, has lan­guished over the sum­mer as Live Nation posted dis­ap­point­ing quar­terly fi­nan­cial re­sults. It closed Wed­nes­day at $9.96, up 11 cents.

The com­pany at its July board meet­ing said it would cut prices to drive at­ten­dance, but ex­ec­u­tives dif­fered on whether artists, many of whom are rep­re­sented by Azoff, should bear the brunt of the pain in the form of lower pay­ments, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with Live Nation.

The ex­ec­u­tives did not re­spond to re­quests for in­ter­views; nei­ther did Malone, whose re­la­tion­ship with Diller soured in 2008 when the two sued each other over Diller’s plan to break up IAC/In­ter­ac­tive Corp. Diller is chief ex­ec­u­tive and Malone owned 23% of its stock. Diller pre­vailed in court and sub­se­quently spun off IAC’s HSN home shop­ping net­work, Tick­et­mas­ter, In­ter­val time-share busi­ness and Lend­ingTree on­line mort­gage re­fer­ral com­pany.

Azoff down­played re­ports of high-level strife at Live Nation, tweet­ing Wed­nes­day morn­ing on Twit­ter that, “As usual, the press re­ports are ridicu­lous.”

Azoff wrote that Diller had al­ways in­tended to step down from the Live Na­tional board within a year of the com­bi­na­tion.

“I look for­ward to con­tinue to work with him dur­ing his time on the board,” Azoff wrote.

Diller also is­sued a state­ment: “I have al­ways said, since the merger of Tick­et­mas­ter and Live Nation, that I only planned to stay as chair­man through the tran­si­tion and in­te­gra­tion of the two com­pa­nies. It’s been al­most a year and I in­formed the board to­day that while there was no rush, the board should start the process now to ap­point a new chair­man.” alex.pham@latimes.com dawn.ch­mielewski@ latimes.com Times staff writ­ers Meg James and Jes­sica Guynn con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Wal­ter Hinick­As­so­ci­ated

BARRY DILLER He helped set up the Tick­et­mas­ter merger.

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