Report: Justice Dept. Approves Ticketmaster/Live Nation Merger (UPDATED)

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[UPDATED to include AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiwecke's statement about the merger.]

Via CNBC, businessinsider.com reported Monday morning that the U.S. Justice Department has approved the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster into a multi-platform entertainment corporation that can do everything but wash your car and walk your dog (and may even do that). First announced last February and approved by both companies' shareholders earlier this month, the merger is expected to take effect immediately. The deal comes after the United Kingdom's Competition Commission approved the merger after determining it would not have an adverse effect on Blighty's retail ticket pricing "or in any other market," writes businessinsider's Gillian Reagan. (Read the full text of the CC's report here.) The New York Times' DealBook blog picked up a New York Post report last week that Live Nation's chief U.S. concert-promotion rival, the Anschutz Entertainment Group - better known around Houston as Warehouse Live owner/promoter The Messina Group's parent company - agreed to drop its opposition to the merger in exchange for Live Nation agreeing to sell some of its venues to AEG "on favorable terms." Live Nation's Southern regional headquarters are located in Houston, and the company currently owns area venues House of Blues and Verizon Wireless Theater and also promotes shows at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and Toyota Center. Naturally, no one at any of the companies involved is saying a word on the record. Yet. However, an unnamed Live Nation source did tell the Post, "Live Nation has no deal to sell venues to AEG." One person who, Rocks Off is willing to bet, will have something to say about the merger is music-biz gadfly Bob Lefsetz. We'll update the blog with his always entertaining, sometimes enlightening comments as soon as he weighs in. But we're pretty sure he's not going to be too thrilled about it. Thursday afternoon, AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiwecke released the following statement about the merger:

"In connection with the Department of Justice's approval of the proposed merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, AEG has entered into agreements with the merging parties that will foster our ability to compete effectively in the ticketing, venue operation and live event promotion businesses.

"Together with other provisions of the Department of Justice's proposed final judgment, including required divestitures and significant behavioral remedies, we are confident that the arrangements we have reached with the parties will serve to increase competition and further the interests of consumers and other participants in the live entertainment industry, not only in the United States, but in a number of key international markets (including Canada and the United Kingdom, among others).

"Among others, we have obtained contractual commitments which accomplish the following objectives:

  • "AEG will have the ability to operate a private label ticketing site using the Ticketmaster system on favorable terms, with commitments from Ticketmaster to host our private label site and provide a high level of ticketing service to our venues and events, including both AEG-affiliated properties and other clients.
  • "While AEG will have the ability to operate under the private label site for up to five years, AEG has obtained complete flexibility to migrate some or all of its ticketing business to one or more alternative ticketing platforms at any time following the merger. AEG intends to aggressively explore such alternatives, including ticketing companies both in the U.S. and in other markets with whom AEG is already engaged in on-going discussions.
  • "AEG has an option to license and install the software comprising the Ticketmaster host to power a competing ticketing system should AEG elect not to pursue an alternative technology.
  • "AEG has received definitive assurances from Ticketmaster regarding its rights to own and use customer and other data for any tickets that it has sold, or will sell in the future, through Ticketmaster.
"The agreements we have entered into will provide necessary assurances to allow the continued success and growth of our existing venue and promotion interests, as well as the further expansion of our venue management portfolio."

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