Barry Diller resigns as Live Nation chairman

EXCLUSIVE: Clashed with Azoff, Emanuel and Shapiro

Barry Diller has told members of the Live Nation board that he plans to resign as chairman.

Though sources said there was a clash between Diller and other board members over control of the music behemoth, Diller said in a statement, “I have always said, since the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, that I only planned to stay as chairman through the transition and integration of the two companies. It’s been almost a year and I informed the board today that while there was no rush, the board should start the process now to appoint a new chairman.”

The effective date of the resignation remains unclear.

Diller, who plans to remain on the board, did not respond to a request for comment on the reported clashes with board members including Irving Azoff, now the top executive at Live Nation; Ari Emanuel of WME; and Mark Shapiro, former CEO of Six Flags; as well as Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino.

The developments at a Tuesday board meeting spring from a power struggle over control of the music industry giant created this year when Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in a deal valued at $889 million.

Diller’s decision appears to represent a rupture with one-time associate Azoff, who may now assume the chairmanship. Azoff declined to comment.

In 2008, IAC spun of Ticketmaster, with Diller in place as chairman. Later that year, Diller’s IAC acquired Azoff’s management company, Front Line, and Azoff became chairman of IAC’s Ticketmaster division. In January, the Justice Department approved the merger of Ticketmaster and concert promoter Live Nation, creating a behemoth that can book concerts, sell tickets and merchandise and manage artists.

Soon after the merger, according to a source, Diller and other board members began clashing over control. Sources said Diller tried to replace a chief financial officer who enjoyed solid support from top executives and other board members, but that attempt was rebuffed.

As time went on, some on the board became increasingly resentful and suspicious of Diller’s agenda, according to an informed source. They believed that Diller wanted to wrest control of some board seats to cement his control of the company and decided to oust him instead.

Before that could happen, this source said, Diller said he planned to resign.

Since the merger went through, Live Nation has increasingly steered the course of the Ticketmaster division, with former Live Nation Ticketing president Nathan Hubbard tapped as CEO of Ticketmaster this year.

Hubbard and his team restructured the long-held regional operational setup of Ticketmaster into one that is broken down into various business segments. It has focused heavily on tapping into the power of the vast Ticketmaster database.

Ticketmaster is facing stiff competition from a wide range of Internet-based startups as contracts with venues, promoters, sports teams and others expire and the barriers to entry into the ticketing space fall.

Billboard executive director of content and programming Ray Waddell in Nashville contributed to this report.
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