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News of Irving Azoff’s New Year’s Eve exit from Live Nation came as a surprise to many music industry observers, but it had been some time in the making. “I’ve been begging to get out for over a year,” Azoff tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s no secret that a public company isn’t my first choice of what to do. Fortunately there’s lots of money [available] and assets to consider — not just in the music space.”
Indeed, the industry legend, who was appointed Live Nation chairman in 2011 but made his name as a manager to such top-tier acts as The Eagles, Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac and Christina Aguilera while helping redefine the live entertainment landscape, says he’s going to “invest” and “run my management company.”
Azoff also told the Wall Street Journal he wants to expand that management portfolio to include sports and Hollywood clients.
Azoff’s Front Line Management Group bills itself as “the world’s largest music management firm” representing some 200 acts, according to Billboard. Speaking with THR from his vacation spot in Mexico, Azoff insists that conflicts (such as juggling the obligations of a manager, ticket seller and CEO to a public company) played no role in his departure and joked that his hasty announcement is “Obama’s fault” because the company’s stock purchase had to go down in the 2012 books to avoid potentially higher taxes.
In announcing his exit, Liberty Media said it bought 1.7 million shares of Live Nation stock from Azoff, increasing its stake to 26.4%.
While a source contends that Azoff may have “ruffled feathers internally” with a series of moves that benefitted him personally (for instance, moving tour booking for Aguilera and the Eagles to to CAA, where his son recently came on board as an agent), a Live Nation insider insists the exit was entirely “friendly.”
Looking down the road, it falls on CEO Michael Rapino to lead the company to continued profits. He recently signed on through 2017 at a base salary of $2.3 million. A LN insider tells THR that Rapino is, quite simply, the man: “He’s a company guy.”
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