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Live Nation In Late Stages of DOJ Investigation, Open to Compromise

Live Nation In Late Stages of DOJ Investigation, Open to Compromise

Live Nation President and CFO Joe Bechtold provided an update on the Department of Justice’s investigation into the company’s business practices, amid rumblings of a potential lawsuit. 

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications conference Tuesday, Bercthold said the company continues to be in discussions with senior leadership at the DOJ, which they believe is the last part of the process before any action may be taken. This comes after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was preparing to file an antitrust lawsuit against the company. 

“These are always serious discussions. We wouldn’t get to this point if they didn’t have concerns, but the good news is we’re still talking and they’ve said they have an open mind. So without getting into the real details of the conversation, I think it’s fair to say I continue to believe that we fundamentally have business practices that are fully defensible,” Berchtold said.

“But we’re also open to figuring out common ground in order to get this settled and moved on. But we don’t know exactly what they want at this point still,” he continued. 

Berchtold has previously said he does not believe the focus of the investigation is on the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which gave the company both ticketing and promotion services, but rather on discrete business practices. 

Asked whether the investigation may be focused on the company’s use of exclusive contracts, which require a venue to use Ticketmaster for a certain number of years, Berchtold called it a “bit of a red herring,” saying that many venues want one ticketing service for ease of use and auction off the exclusivity rights to maximize their value. 

“I’ve got no issues with any venue that says they want to be non-exclusive, and want a financial arrangement that reflects that and want an operational arrangement that reflects that,” Berchtold said. “All of that is fine, as far as we’re concerned. We just find that that’s not generally what the venues are asking for.”

“It’s a very competitive market,” Berchtold later added. “Don’t let any of the press reports fool you,”

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During a Senate hearing in January 2023, concerning Live Nation’s business practices in light of the trouble with the sale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s tour, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and venue owners alleged that Live Nation had been threatening venues by pulling bookings if they did not choose Ticketmaster as the ticket provider. Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, a competitor to Live Nation, also suggested Live Nation was moving to a longer exclusivity window for the contracts. 

On Tuesday, Berchtold said most contracts are three to five years in length, but that some venues elect for longer exclusive contracts in order to get bigger advances to help fund their capital requirements. Live Nation would be open to changing that too, he said. 

“That doesn’t concern me,” Berchtold said. “That will limit the venues in terms of how much capital they get. But we can figure that out. That doesn’t concern me in the least.”

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