10:49am PT by Eriq Gardner
AEG Says Ozzy Osbourne Lawsuit Isn't What It Pretends to Be
Ozzy Osbourne is free to bite the head off a bat in any Los Angeles venue. But if the musician wants to play both the O2 Arena in London and The Forum in Los Angeles, Live Nation is prevented from promoting Osbourne's latter concert.
So suggests AEG in response to an antitrust class action led by Osbourne, who in March brought a case in California federal court claiming that AEG was violating antitrust laws by tying two of its venues. Osbourne alleges he's been pushed into a so-called "Staples Center Commitment," meaning he will only be able to perform in AEG's "must have" O2 if, on the Los Angeles leg of his tour, he commits to play AEG's Staples Center instead of The Forum, a joint venture between Madison Square Garden Company and Irving Azoff, who once was the leader of Live Nation.
When the complaint was first filed, it was fairly apparent that the case was part of a turf war between competitors AEG and Live Nation. If the latter engineered Osbourne's lawsuit, few insiders would be surprised. Now, AEG wants to make that crystal clear in a motion to dismiss.
"This lawsuit is not what it pretends to be," begins AEG in a memorandum supporting dismissal. " On the surface, Plaintiff John Michael 'Ozzy' Osbourne purports to bring an antitrust lawsuit against [AEG] in the name of 'artistic freedom' to protect artists such as himself from being 'coerced' into performing at Staples Center instead of the Forum. But in reality, this case is a poorly-disguised attempt by Ozzy’s promoter, Live Nation (represented by the same lawyers), to pressure Defendants to abandon their lawful efforts to compete for bookings in Los Angeles and counteract Live Nation’s tactics to steer business away from venues that AEG owns."
According to AEG, the lawsuit is flawed because the agreement Osbourne is attempting to strike down is really an agreement between AEG and Live Nation.
While it's rare to see an industry giant copping to carve up the market with the rival, AEG here says that the actual text of the agreement makes clear that obligations are imposed on Live Nation.
"Thus, the plain language of the LN/Ozzy Commitment Letter attached to the FAC shows that Ozzy is free to play at other Los Angeles venues," states the memo. "The LN/Ozzy Commitment Letter might prevent Live Nation from promoting Ozzy’s Los Angeles shows. But nothing in the LN/Ozzy Commitment Letter prevents Ozzy from playing at the Forum. Given the plain language of the LN/Ozzy Commitment Letter, Ozzy cannot allege that he was 'forced' to play Staples in Los Angeles as a condition of playing The O2 in London, and therefore he cannot satisfy this essential element of his tying claim."
Live Nation hasn't yet responded to an opportunity to respond.