Irving Azoff has exited Live Nation Entertainment, where he has shared the top job with Michael Rapino since the merger of the Live Nation and Ticketmaster companies in 2010.
Music industry veteran Azoff first became a senior player at Ticketmaster after it bought his artist management company Front Line in 2008. He then played a key role in the consolidation of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, and subsequently ran the merged entity in partnership with Live Nation top man Rapino, taking the job title of Chairman.
His departure, which comes into immediate effect, was rushed through right at the end of the year mainly because of the tax benefits of doing the deal in 2012. Azoff has also sold 1.7 million of his Live Nation shares to Liberty Media, the media firm that has been tipped to mount a takeover of the live music conglom for much of the year. As part of that arrangement the outgoing Live Nation Chair will also join the board of Liberty-owned cable television company Starz.
Though most of Azoff’s time will remain focused on music, for the time being at least. According to an interview with Billboard, he gets to keep the unit of Front Line in which he has been most directly involved, Azoffmusic Management, which means he will continue to represent a small roster of artists that he refers to as “friends”, including Eagles, Van Halen, Steely Dan and Christina Aguilera. It seems likely that Azoff will want to expand that business moving forward, though he told Billboard that it was to soon to say in what direction, though he hinted that he might focus exclusively on talent management in the future, but move beyond music.
Azoff insists that he departs Live Nation on very good terms with both the company and Rapino, and that he still believes the firm has a successful future. However, he had become frustrated by the limitations of running a publicly listed company, especially one as closely scrutinised as Live Nation. He told Billboard: “All I can say is public company life to me was smothering. This was not about people, it was about public company process, in the end. That’s the most honest appraisal about why I wanted to leave”.
As it was, Azoff was often unusually candid for the chairman of a listed company, and clearly he often wanted to go further in his public statements. Shortly after his resignation from Live Nation was confirmed last night, he tweeted “Hey lawyers, try to shut me up now”.
Earlier, in a more formal statement, Azoff confirmed his departure from Live Nation by saying: “After successfully overseeing the integration of Live Nation and Ticketmaster over the past two years, my job here is done. We put together the leading company across concert promotion, ticketing, sponsorship and artist management and delivered the great results promised by the merger. I especially enjoyed my time with my partner Michael Rapino, and he has demonstrated the ability to lead this company from now on. I’m looking forward to returning to the entrepreneurial world and continuing to work with all my friends and colleagues at Live Nation”.
Meanwhile Rapino added: “Irving has been a valuable partner and friend for the past few years. We will certainly miss him and we thank him for his many contributions in building Live Nation to the global company it is today, entertaining 50 million fans and selling 200 million tickets in more than 40 countries around the world. I look forward to continuing to work with Irving on his artists’ tours for years to come”.