Veteran entertainment entrepreneur John Scher, co-CEO of Metropolitan Talent, is free to promote concerts again after a judge ruled his non-compete clause with Clear Channel Entertainment is terminate

Veteran entertainment entrepreneur John Scher, co-CEO of Metropolitan Talent, is free to promote concerts again after a judge ruled his non-compete clause with Clear Channel Entertainment is terminated.

The non-competition agreement was issued in July 2003 and expired last Tuesday (March 15). New Jersey District Court Judge Dickinson Debevoise's ruling came March 16.

"Both performing artists and the general public would benefit from the competition that would develop if Scher were to re-enter the promotion field," Debevoise said.

CCE had sought to keep the non-compete in effect. The ruling stems from an ongoing lawsuit in federal court in Newark, N.J.

Scher founded and ran Metropolitan Entertainment until Covanta acquired it in 1995; Covanta later sold it to Mitch Slater in 2002. Scher left Metropolitan Entertainment in 2001 and formed Metropolitan Talent -- a multi-faceted entertainment company -- with Al Cafaro.

CCE inherited Scher's non-compete agreement when it purchased Metropolitan Entertainment from Slater.

"Since I last promoted in 2001, the touring landscape has dramatically changed, and is now dominated by big companies like Clear Channel and AEG Live," Scher tells Billboard.biz. "Even so, I am incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunities that exist for independent promoters now. In a nutshell, the opportunity is to go back and be producers of entertainment events, not just promoters of them."

Meanwhile, the legal wrangling between Scher and CCE is ongoing. "Scher may be back in business, but it isn't over yet," says a CCE spokesperson.

"The judge ruled that Scher was bound by a valid no-compete that expired on its own terms (last) week. We believe Scher violated that agreement several times," adds the CCE spokesperson.

In his order, Judge Debevoise says "it is unlikely that Clear Channel will prevail on the merits of its claim that Scher violated the July 11, 2003 [non compete] order." He adds that it was unlikely that CCE's claims would likely not be determined "without a full evidentiary hearing."

The case between Scher and CCE concerns breach of contract and antitrust claims by Scher against CCE relating to Covanta's bankruptcy. "The judge has urged us to try and settle these outstanding issues," says Scher. "Absent of a potential settlement, discovery will continue.