Irving Azoff to Leave Live Nation

Azoff was named chairman in 2011, taking over for Liberty Media chairman John Malone.

Irving Azoff has stepped down as chairman of Live Nation Entertainment and CEO of Front Line Entertainment.

"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," Azoff said in a release.  "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."

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A Live Nation source confirms to THR that Azoff's exit was friendly, with no animosity on either side, saying "he's [Azoff] returning to his passion," and added there were "a lot of things at play here, not the least of which that Live Nation is a publicly traded company and that bogged down [Azoff]."

Liberty Media said it bought 1.7 million shares of Live Nation stock from Azoff, increasing its stake to 26.4%. 

"Irving has been a valuable partner and friend for the past few years," said Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation. "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."

Last week, Liberty announced it had extended Rapino's contract through 2017, and raised his annual base salary to $2.3 million.

"I want to thank Irving for his leadership since the merger.  While he has played a key role in setting Live Nation on a path for success, we understand his entrepreneurial desires," said Greg Maffei, lead external director for Live Nation Entertainment's Board of Directors, and President and CEO of Liberty Media. "Live Nation is now well positioned and we have tremendous confidence in Michael Rapino and his leadership team. "

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Azoff, who manages the Eagles and Christina Aguilera, owns about 3 million Live Nation shares, according to a report from Bloomberg News. He earned $34.6 million in 2011, up from $22.8 million in 2010. 

In February 2011, Live Nation named Azoff chairman. Front Line founder Azoff replaced Liberty Media chairman John Malone, who stepped down following a stint as interim chairman. Malone took the reins after IAC head Barry Diller stepped down.

More to come.