Bot­tleRock:

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Aidin Vaziri

Me­gapro­moter Live Na­tion buys ma­jor­ity stake in the 5year-old Napa mu­sic fes­ti­val.

Live Na­tion En­ter­tain­ment, the world’s largest con­cert pro­moter, has ac­quired a ma­jor­ity in­ter­est in the 5-yearold Bot­tleRock Napa Val­ley mu­sic fes­ti­val, a bou­tique ven­ture that had a rough patch at the start but has be­come a big part of the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia mu­sic cal­en­dar.

The deal was an­nounced on Fri­day, Jan. 13.

Bev­erly Hills-based Live Na­tion adds the an­nual three­day event in down­town Napa to its ex­pan­sive port­fo­lio of mu­sic fes­ti­vals world­wide, inl­clud­ing Lol­la­palooza in Chicago, Gover­nors Ball in New York City and Ten­nessee’s Bon­na­roo.

Bot­tleRock’s pro­ducer, Lat­i­tude 38 En­ter­tain­ment, whose founders Dave Gra­ham, Justin Dra­goo and Ja­son Scog­gins took over the fes­ti­val in 2014, say the deal will pro­vide vi­tal sup­port in one of the most com­pet­i­tive mar­kets for live mu­sic in the coun­try.

“We’re some­what on an is­land over here, con­stantly hav­ing to pull a rab­bit out of our hat to bring in the right bands,” Gra­ham said. “Bring­ing in a part­ner like Live Na­tion puts us at the front of the line.”

Live Na­tion, which also owns tick­et­ing be­he­moth

Tick­et­mas­ter, has ag­gres­sively ac­quired fes­ti­vals across the coun­try in the past few years, an­gling to be a vi­able com­peti­tor to the state’s other ma­jor mu­sic fes­ti­vals: Coachella Val­ley Mu­sic & Arts Fes­ti­val in In­dio (River­side County), which is pro­duced by com­peti­tor AEG Live (via its Gold­en­voice sub­sidiary); and Out­side Lands in San Fran­cisco, pre­sented by Su­per­fly and Berke­ley’s An­other Planet En­ter­tain­ment.

These trans­ac­tions have re­sulted in a con­sol­i­da­tion of the mul­ti­day out­door con­cert busi­ness.

But cor­po­rate in­volve­ment isn’t al­ways a bless­ing for de­vel­op­ing fes­ti­vals. Many fans felt alien­ated when the lon­grun­ning Los An­ge­les indie rock event FYF Fest was ac­quired by AEG in 2010. While AEG helped FYF Fest land su­per­star head­lin­ers, the event lost much of its bou­tique feel, ticket prices went up, and larger crowds pre­sented in­fra­struc­ture is­sues.

Live Na­tion CEO Michael Rapino has pre­vi­ously promised to give ac­qui­si­tions au­ton­omy, with the com­pany act­ing as more of a silent part­ner than a con­trol­ling force.

Lat­i­tude 38 isn’t wor­ried.

“The deal would not have gone through had we not agreed to run the fes­ti­val in the long run,” Gra­ham said. “They’re go­ing to leave us alone un­til we need help.”

It was not dis­closed how much Live Na­tion paid for its stake in the fes­ti­val, which draws some 120,000 fans ev­ery Memo­rial Day week­end. But in 2014, Live Na­tion re­port­edly paid $125 mil­lion for a ma­jor­ity stake in C3 Presents, which pro­duces Lol­la­palooza and the Austin City Lim­its Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Texas.

This year’s Bot­tleRock, sched­uled for May 26-28 at the Napa Val­ley Expo, will be head­lined by the Foo Fight­ers, Ma­roon 5 and Tom Petty and the Heart­break­ers. The out­door fes­ti­val also show­cases the re­gion’s food and wine of­fer­ings, help­ing spur the sales of tick­ets (early-bird three­day passes sold out within min­utes this month).

But Bot­tleRock has strug­gled to es­tab­lish it­self in the crowded sum­mer con­cert sea­son. In spite of book­ing ma­jor head­lin­ers like the Black Keys and Kings of Leon, the event stum­bled af­ter its 2013 launch when the orig­i­nal pro­duc­ers, BR Fes­ti­vals LLC, re­ported an $8 mil­lion deficit, ul­ti­mately fil­ing for Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion.

Since ac­quir­ing Bot­tleRock, the Napa Val­ley lo­cals — Gra­ham, a sea­soned tech­nol­ogy startup in­vestor; Dra­goo, a for­mer NFL line­backer and pres­i­dent of Oakville’s Gargiulo Vine­yards; and ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive Scog­gins — have worked at re­build­ing the Bot­tleRock brand. Just last year, they agreed to stage the fes­ti­val at the 26-acre Napa Expo site through 2026 in an $8 mil­lion deal with the fair­ground au­thor­ity.

“Our mis­sion has al­ways been to cre­ate the most el­e­vated fes­ti­val ex­pe­ri­ence in the world,” Gra­ham said. “Hav­ing a part­ner on board that can help us do that is key.”

Michael No­ble Jr. / The Chronicle 2016

Crowds re­spond to the X Am­bas­sadors at the Bot­tleRock 2016 mu­sic fes­ti­val in Napa.

Michael No­ble Jr. / The Chronicle 2016

The Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, the fes­ti­val head­lin­ers, per­form as the clos­ing act of Bot­tleRock 2016.

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