A report in last week's Financial Times recounting Live Nation’s banner year has inadvertently brought to light a simmering feud between the company’s former CEO Irving Azoff and current board member Ari Emanuel.
The FT story detailed Live Nation’s recent successes, which included a shrewd move to London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after leaving a more problematic venue in Hyde Park; the company’s victory in court against CTS Eventim, a European ticketing services company that claimed Live Nation violated a software licensing agreement; and the company’s impressive stock rise over the last 12 months by more than 70 percent.
All of which would seem like positive news to Live Nation’s current and former board members. However, as a Hollywood Reporter story chronicled, the news item has led to a public feud between two individuals often associated with Live Nation: Emanuel and Azoff. The acrimonious email exchange between the two reportedly began when Emanuel fired off an email to Azoff with the subject line using the Financial Times headline "Live Nation revels as clamour for gigs reaches crescendo - FT.com" that ridiculed Azoff for selling his shares when he left the company. The heated email exchange that followed included insults and accusations of dishonesty, attempts to take clients, criminal behavior and psychological disorders.
According to the report, the emails only became public after various high profile entertainment executives were copied on the emails. That list apparently included “Paramount's Brad Grey, Cablevision's James Dolan, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, Universal's Ron Meyer and several agents at several WME rivals.”
Emanuel has served as a member of Live Nation's board of directors since September 2007. He is a founding partner of the Endeavor Agency and orchestrated the merger with the William Morris Agency in 2009 to form William Morris Endeavor of which he is now co-CEO. His hard-nosed management style is reportedly the inspiration behind Ari Gold, the intense and aggro agent played by Jeremy Piven on HBO’s “Entourage.”
When Billboard.biz reached out to Emanuel and WME, they declined to comment on the story.
Azoff, no wallflower himself, has found success as a movie producer, agent, promoter, label CEO, label owner and chairman and founder of Azoff Music Management Group, Inc which counts Eagles, Christina Aguilera and Journey among its high-profile clients. In late 2008, he became chairman and CEO of Ticketmaster Entertainment, which acquired his Front Line management; and then became Chairman of Live Nation Entertainment when Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010.
in an interview with Billboard earlier this year that followed his surprise Dec. 31, 2012 resignation from Live Nation, Azoff expressed frustration at having to work at a publicly owned company and deal with the board. “It was just the frustration with working at a public company,” he said. “We had a board that was afraid to do things because of the Treasury, institutional shareholders, people writing you letters, everybody complaining about you and your people making too much money, you can't do this, you can't do that, everybody has to be on the same e-mail address. Sh-- like that just drove me crazy.”
What these new emails point to, however, is that it may not have just been the board structure itself that drove him "crazy," but also perhaps certain board directors.