Live Nation is crazy for Madonna

Recording, touring deal aims to entice WMG star

Nashville — The industry is buzzing with talk that Madonna is considering an exit from her longtime home, Warner Music Group. Most of the focus centers on a deal said to be in the works with Live Nation that would encompass recorded music, touring, merchandising and other business concerns.

Arthur Fogel, president of TNA International and chairman of Live Nation's global touring division, has produced Madonna's past three world tours, which grossed about $400 million combined. Fogel likely would be at the forefront of any negotiations between Madonna and Live Nation.

Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation, the world's largest live-event producer and venue operator, has expressed a desire for the company to form longer-term and more complex relationships with artists. But a multifaceted deal with an artist of Madonna's stature — one that would include a label component as well as Madonna's lucrative touring business — would be the most ambitious undertaking under his watch.

One source estimated the value of the Live Nation offer to be $180 million, with the company potentially licensing the recording rights for about $30 million.

It is believed that Madonna has two more albums due on her contract with WMG, and an album of new material is expected late this year or early 2008, possibly to be followed by a greatest hits project. It is doubtful that WMG, the only label to which Madonna has ever been signed, would give up the Material Girl without a fight. Sources said that the company has made a counteroffer to Madonna that also includes a touring component that could be helmed by rival promoter AEG Live. AEG Live declined comment.

Madonna's respect for Fogel's talents is clear. "Arthur Fogel knows how to make the impossible possible," she told Billboard in 2005. "He's a touring genius."

Fogel, who is producing the Police's reunion world tour, could not be reached for comment.

Ray Waddell is an executive director at Billboard.
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