The abrupt resignation of James Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company and president/CEO of MSG owner Cablevision, from the Live Nation board of directors on Friday is connected to Dolan’s relationship with former Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, who himself resigned from his position atop the world’s largest promoter, ticketing company (Ticketmaster) and management company on New Years Eve, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Dolan and Azoff are close friends, and Azoff even manages Dolan’s band, J.D. & the Straight Shots. Neither Live Nation nor Dolan’s office would comment on the resignation.
“He’s Irving’s guy,” a source says of Dolan. “The relationship was always with Irving, not the people at Live Nation.”
Dolan’s path to the Live Nation board was a circuitous one. In June of 2008, MSG bought a minority stake in Front Line, the aligned management companies led by Azoff that was then partially held by former Ticketmaster parent IAC; by October of that year, IAC had spun off Ticketmaster, and the latter acquired a majority stake in Front Line, with Azoff assuming the CEO role in what was then known as Ticketmaster Entertainment. Then in 2010, Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged to create Live Nation Entertainment, with Azoff as chairman and Dolan on the Live Nation Entertainment board.
As of now, the status of MSG’s minority stake in Live Nation -- 3.9 million shares, representing about 2% of the company’s stock, according to analyst Ben Mogil of Stifel Nicolaus -- is unclear. But a source says that, as of Monday, those shares had not been sold by MSG; more may be revealed in Live Nation’s quarterly earnings report on Tuesday.
Also a factor is the Los Angeles Forum, which MSG bought last year and is currently renovating. MSG would like to operate the Forum as an open shop, working with all promoters, as they do with their other venues, including the Garden. Dolan serving on the Live Nation board could present a potential conflict of interest or create perception issues when seeking the best promoter options for Forum events. Los Angeles is a very competitive market for concert promoters, and Live Nation’s biggest rival in the market and elsewhere is AEG Live, a subsidiary of AEG, which owns and operates the Staples Center, as well as other venues in the Southern California marketplace.