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The emails at the center of the government's Ticketmaster case| GuyWhoKnowsThings

in your demand In accusing Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, of being an illegal monopoly, the Justice Department relied on a series of internal communications that offered a rare behind-the-scenes look at the industry.

The Justice Department argued in a lengthy complaint filed Thursday that the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which took place in 2010, had harmed competition, hindered innovation and resulted in higher ticket prices and fees for consumers. . He requested the dissolution of the company.

In response, Live Nation, which is also the world's largest concert promoter, has said it is It is not a monopoly, and denied that he has the unilateral power to raise prices. Contrary to the government's argument about its great power, Live Nation says it now faces more competition than ever and that the Justice Department's lawsuit “will not reduce ticket prices or service fees.”

In detailing its allegations, the government relied on revealing emails it claims were written by Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino and other high-powered figures in the concert world.

These are some of those accusations.

A 2021 episode gets to the heart of the Justice Department's accusations that Live Nation went to great lengths to protect its competitive advantage.

Late that year, the government says, Live Nation “threatened commercial retaliation” against the private equity firm Silver Lake, which had an investment in TEG, an Australian ticketing and promotion company that participated in a very popular charity show. expected from Kanye West and Drake. at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Silver Lake had also invested in Oak View Group, a venue management company with close ties to Live Nation.

According to the government, Rapino complained to an Oak View Group executive that she viewed TEG as a competitor, and Oak View Group conveyed to the investor that Live Nation was “not happy.” Rapino then told Silver Lake that he was “all in” with Oak View Group, “where the big play is in the venues; why insult me ​​with this investment in ticket sales/promotions, etc.?”

TEG had reached an agreement to sell some tickets through StubHub. According to the complaint, Live Nation attempted to “frustrate” TEG by blocking those tickets, and as a result, “hundreds of StubHub customers were denied entry to the event.”

Live Nation then “threatened to withdraw its support for Oak View Group,” and Irving Azoff, the powerful artist manager who co-founded Oak View Group, refused to allow TEG to promote shows with any of the artists he managed. Azoff told Rapino that he would demand that Silver Lake sell TEG, and Rapino responded, “I love you.” According to the complaint, Silver Lake attempted to sell TEG and offered it to Live Nation.

in a detailed answer Regarding the Justice Department's lawsuit, Dan Wall, Live Nation's executive vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs, said the claim that Live Nation had threatened Silver Lake “reveals not only a disregard for the facts, but also a profound hypocrisy.”

Rapino's complaint, Wall said, was “fundamentally the same” as a concern from both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission about “private equity firms making multiple investments in the same industry because of competitive 'entanglements.'” “.

In a separate statement about the LA Coliseum concert, Live Nation said: “All we did was thwart TEG's efforts to put tickets directly on the secondary market in violation of our exclusive rights to the primary tickets.” Silver Lake did not respond to a request for comment.

Live Nation, the government says, initially viewed Oak View Group as one of its “biggest competitive threats.” But soon the companies “colluded,” the government says, to “avoid competing with each other and map out a mutually beneficial business plan to cement Live Nation's dominance.”

Oak View Group, the government says, operated as an “agent” of Live Nation, even calling itself a “pimp” and “hammer” for the larger company, sometimes issuing threats on behalf of Live Nation to places it They were considering leaving Ticketmaster. for another ticket provider.

The government's complaint cites what it says are emails from 2016 in which Rapino complained to Oak View Group executives about her intention to promote shows with an artist Live Nation works with. Oak View Group backs down and the company's CEO, who is not identified in the complaint but is Timothy Leiweke, says: “Our guys got a little ahead of themselves. “Everyone knows we don't promote and we only tour with Live Nation.”

Wall, the Live Nation executive, said in response that Oak View Group “has never been a concert promoter, nor has it aspired to be,” and was simply looking to fill the occasional dark night at one of its venues. “Presenting that as an agreement not to compete in concert promotion is a travesty,” Wall wrote. A representative for Oak View Group declined to comment.

In early 2023, The New York Times broke the news that Barclays Center, the stadium in Brooklyn, was abandoning SeatGeek, the young and aggressive ticketing business with which it had just signed a seven-year contract, and signing a new agreement with Ticketmaster.

The abrupt change raised eyebrows in the industry and raised questions about whether Live Nation had denied the venue access to Live Nation's biggest tours in retaliation for switching from Ticketmaster to SeatGeek. Live Nation denied this at the time, and a review of concert data by The Times was inconclusive. Indeed, the number of Live Nation-promoted shows at Barclays had declined since SeatGeek took over, but so had those from independent promoters.

The Justice Department's case omits Barclays' name from the lawsuit, but Wall confirmed it in a conference call with investors Thursday night. The government cites an email it says was sent to the venue's CEO by “a senior Live Nation executive” who had heard the venue was switching to SeatGeek: “Anyway,” the email says, ” “we should think about a broader relationship with LN.” not just who is writing a bigger sponsorship check,” adding a “wink” emoji.

According to the government, Live Nation “made good on its threats and diverted the concerts to other locations.”

In response, Live Nation said: “We categorically deny that any concert was diverted to retaliate against your decision to go to SeatGeek.”

The government maintains that Live Nation has acquired several companies with the goal of eliminating rivals in both concert promotion and ticket sales.

Among the examples the government cites are United Concerts in Utah, which used a regional ticketing company called SmithsTix. According to what the government says were internal communications from Live Nation, the company wanted a larger ticket sales presence in Utah, but decided not to acquire SmithsTix because doing so “would require us to go to the Department of Justice.” Instead, Live Nation bought United Concerts in 2017 and converted its venues to Ticketmaster; SmithsTix, he said, eventually closed.

Another is AC Entertainment in Tennessee, which participated in the Bonnaroo festival there. Live Nation acquired a majority stake in the company in 2016. A Live Nation executive found the economics of the deal “not very exciting” but called it “a defensive move” against AEG, according to the complaint. In 2018, Live Nation purchased Frank Productions, a promoter in Wisconsin that used ticketing companies other than Ticketmaster; Live Nation acquired the company and “switched venues to exclusive Ticketmaster contracts.”

In response, Wall said the deal for AC Entertainment was made with a promoter who was 60 years old and wanted to retire. “Live Nation didn't have an office in Knoxville, so for $15 million it made the deal,” Wall wrote. “Really? The Justice Department is questioning that?”

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