The Madison Square Garden Company and Irving Azoff's Azoff Music Management have announced the founding of Azoff MSG Entertainment, a jointly owned company in a $300 million deal that will expand on AMM's artist representation business to include music publishing, television production, live event branding, digital marketing as well as a crowd-funded, talent-scouting television show, "Streets of the City."
To form the new company, Azoff Music Management will bring its clients -- which include The Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Steely Dan -- and businesses still in development to Azoff MSG Entertainment, while a subsidiary of the Madison Square Garden Company will pay Azoff Music Management $125 million for a 50% ownership in the new company. As well, MSG also will provide $50 million in credit loans to Azoff MSG Entertainment. Azoff will act as a consultant to the Madison Square Garden Company on its venues, while MSG Co. will provide Azoff MSG Entertainment consulting services. Unlike Azoff’s tenure at Live Nation, the new venture will be a private business.
“We see it, from MSG’s point of view, as a venture capital play, not run by us, but taking advantage of our position of all our venues and combining it with great artists managed by Azoff Music,” Dolan told Billboard. “It’s all Irving, and what I like about it is that it doesn’t go through the public company process. Irving is the first and last call with the decisions at this company. He will be able to move quickly, he doesn’t have boards to answer to on this. It’s just going to be him, and I have great faith in him, as does everybody here at MSG, that he’s going to produce a lot of winners for us in this partnership.”
For his part, Azoff sees this new venture as having a well-rounded team. “These days, to make an impact you need clout and financing and brains, and we think we have all three of those,” Azoff told Billboard. “Basically it’s putting out a sign that says, ‘come see us if you’ve got a great idea, because we have the management ability and financing ability and we’re looking for great new businesses.’”
The new company already has senior management in place for its four units. Azoff will serve as chairman and CEO and will continue to work with his long-standing clients, as well as provide consultancy to MSG Co. on its venue businesses. The music publishing division, which the company will own a 90% stake in, is to be run by Randy Grimmett as CEO and Sean O'Malley as COO. The television production and live event branding unit will be run by Lawrence Randall, a former head of programming and entertainment for the NFL. The digital branding and marketing unit, which Azoff MSG Entertainment will own 50% of, is to be overseen by Allison Statter on behalf of AMSGE and managed by Karen Robinovitz, Raina Penchansky and Kendra Bracken-Fergusen. Finally, Brian Schuster, United Talent Agency and digital tech company ACTV8 will partner with AMSGE on the roll-out of the interactive "Streets of the City" television show.
On New Year’s Eve, 2012, Azoff unexpectedly resigned his post as chairman of Live Nation Entertainment with 18 months left on his contract. Azoff told Billboard at the time that his resignation was related to the frustration with working at a public company. “All I can say is public company life to me was smothering,” he said. In stepping down from Live Nation, Azoff also left Front Line (now Artist Nation), the massive artist management company he built, though he remains a manager, with such clients as the Eagles, Van Halen, and Christina Aguilera. The merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation occurred on his watch.