Artist Group International
POWER MOVE: Sold company he founded to Ron Burkle, but the billionaire investor made sure he kept the veteran agent to oversee a roster of some 60 acts.
THE RUNDOWN: Whether it’s his business acumen, instincts for synergistic tour packaging or willingness to impart lessons learned during a 40-year career as a top agent that earned him the nickname “the Professor,” Dennis Arfa’s rep as a pitbull negotiator is anything but abstruse.
Beyond a roster of some 60 acts including longtime client Billy Joel—as well as Metallica, Linkin Park, Rod Stewart, Mötley Crüe and Rush—Arfa’s sage industry skills surely played a role in his company Artist Group International being the debut acquisition by Y Entertainment Group, part of billionaire Ron Burkle’s investment firm Yucaipa.
The industry is still waiting to see what Y will do, and “several things are moving forward,” Arfa says. (Beyond the AGI buy, there’s only been a minority stake taken in controversial showbiz indie Relativity Media.) “We’re trying to do it right, not just throw things against the wall and see what sticks. If you don’t do it smart, it comes back to haunt you.”
Meanwhile, AGI and its team of agents are booking winning tours including Kiss/Mötley Crüe and Linkin Park/Incubus. Joel plans to play Jazzfest this year, and the industry hopes the arena home run artist will follow with more live dates.
Asked about the ephemeral concept of power, Arfa says, “The power is always with the artist . . . And anybody who doesn’t understand the limitations of that power is doomed to not have any.”