The battle between Live Nation and its ex-chairman Michael Cohl is heating up.
In November, the music giant sued Cohl for $5.35 million for allegedly breaching the terms of an agreement made at the time he left the company.
Now Cohl has struck back, saying that it was Live Nation that first breached the very same contract by attempting to "interfere" and "destroy" Cohl's opportunity to procure promotional rights to a Rolling Stones tour later this year.
Cohl is famous in the entertainment business for his promotional endeavors. He is credited with inventing the modern rock tour and has recently gained much attention for producing Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, the most expensive Broadway musical ever. In 2008, Cohl left Live Nation amid a feud with CEO Michael Rapino over the direction of the company.
When Cohl left in 2008, he signed a financial agreement that spelled out how exactly he would compete against Live Nation going forward. Cohl was to pay $9.85 million in installments to Live Nation in return for various assets, including a non-compete exemption to continue working with and promoting tours by the Stones, Pink Floyd and Barbara Streisand.
Live Nation sued Cohl for allegedly failing to pay $5.35 million in the 2008 agreement. But Cohl says that Live Nation never lived up to its side of the deal.
Last February, Live Nation sent Cohl a letter informing him that it was going to bid against Cohl for the Rolling Stones' next concert tour, which hadn't yet been announced. The company followed up with an e-mail stating that Cohl could still pursue the band's tour, but only through a joint venture. Live Nation also wanted Cohl to detail his negotiations with the Rolling Stones, which Cohl says would give Live Nation key info that could be used to undercut his own bid.
Later, Live Nation allegedly proposed competing separately for a Rolling Stones tour. Cohl says the proposal amounted to a breach of his contract with his former employer. Cohl says he paid Live Nation $20 million for the right to not bid against the company for the Rolling Stones tour, to have Live Nation finance the tour, to have Live Nation perform the services of "Executive Global Promoter" of the tour, and to receive two-thirds of the promoter's profits from the tour.
The Rolling Stones tour later this year is expected to be one of the biggest in concert history. It's the 50th anniversary for the band, which through the years has enjoyed a number of financially lucrative tours.
Cohl calls promotional rights on this upcoming tour "the crown jewel" of the agreement he made with Live Nation in 2008. He says the value of this asset would have more than accounted for the $5 million he owes the company. In other words, Cohl implies that Live Nation would have gotten its money if it hadn't been the first to breach the agreement.
Cohl's countersuit also reveals that members of the Rolling Stones, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, have been informed by both parties of the "spat" and that they have expressed a desire not to get dragged into the middle of the dispute. But Cohl says the fuss is causing damage anyway. Live Nation has attempted to hurt his standing with the band's representatives, maintains Cohl.
A spokesperson for Live Nation wasn't immediately available for comment.
In an interview with Billboard's Ray Waddell that appears in the Feb. 5 issue of the magazine, Cohl was asked for comment on the lawsuit: " 'They don't serserve the money.' There's my quote. We'll see what the judge says, won't we?" Waddell then said it didn't sound like Cohl was worred about the suit. "I'm not," he replied.