Veteran entertainment industry executive Ron Bension has been named as the new CEO of TicketsNow, the secondary ticketing division of Ticketmaster Entertainment in what would seem to be an indication that Ticketmaster will not favor shedding the division to gain regulatory approval for the proposed merger with Live Nation.
According to an announcement today, Bension will “work closely with the TicketsNow and Ticketmaster executive teams to develop and produce new offerings for consumers and foster strategic business growth.” Bension’s 30-year career includes executive positions at several major e-commerce, recreation, and entertainment companies.
“We are very fortunate to have Ron leading TicketsNow,” Irving Azoff, Ticketmaster’s CEO, says in a prepared statement. “His wide breadth of operating successes and strong industry relationships will play an instrumental role in driving key growth opportunities and partnerships for TicketsNow, and we’re thrilled to have him on the team.”
Bension most recently held the CEO post for Prolink Solutions in Phoenix. Previously, Bension held principal roles as CEO of Tickets.com, where he restructured the online ticketing technology and service, including overseeing the company's relationships with Major League Baseball and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and sale to MLB in 2005.; president and CEO of GameWorks, LLC, a multi-unit restaurant and entertainment company; chairman and CEO of MCA/Universal Studios Recreation Group; CEO of Sportnet. His background in live entertainment includes a stint at MCA Concerts, which evolved into Universal Concerts and then House Of Blues Entertainment, the latter being acquired by Live Nation in 2006.
There has been speculation that Ticketmaster might divest TicketsNow in order to gain regulatory approval for the proposed merger with Live Nation, though Bension’s appointment seems to indicate that will not be the case. A DOJ ruling on the merger is expected soon.
Ticketmaster acquired TicketsNow for $265 million in 2008, but the relationship between Ticketmaster and TicketsNow has come under scrutiny by fans, government officials, and the industry, spurred by a high-profile situation surround Bruce Springsteen tickets where fans seeking primary Springsteen tickets in New Jersey were immediately linked to TicktesNow. At the February congressional hearings on the merger, Azoff said he would not have acquired TicketsNow had he been TM CEO at the time, and indicated he would be open to selling it.
Azoff defended TicketsNow practices in a recent Billboard interview, but was quick to point out TicketsNow’s separation from Ticketmaster. “TicketsNow is a company that runs separately from Ticketmaster, there are no links—despite the fact that [secondary site] StubHub gets linked to Major League Baseball and other people—there are no pre-listings [of tickets before a show goes onsale], and it is our policy not to allow people to list that don’t actually have the tickets to the best of our ability,” he said.